COVID-19: What the Competition Bureau is doing

 

The Competition Bureau continues to do everything in its power to protect consumers and businesses from anti-competitive activity—including deceptive marketing, price-fixing and bid-rigging—throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Action on deceptive marketing

The Competition Bureau is actively monitoring the marketplace and is taking action to stop deceptive marketing claims related to COVID-19.

The Bureau has issued compliance warnings to businesses across Canada to stop potentially false or misleading claims that their products and services can prevent the disease or protect against the virus. The warnings concerned claims related to masks, food and natural products, as well as ventilation and air purification products. For example, the Bureau issued warnings to businesses offering air filters or air purifiers with claims that they filter out the virus. The Bureau also warned businesses against making claims that herbal remedies, bee-related products, and vegetables or other foods could prevent COVID-19 infections. The businesses included a major national retailer as well as businesses located in Ontario, Québec, British Colombia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick.

Most of the businesses have taken corrective action, pulling products that raised concerns from their shelves or stopping the claims. The Bureau continues to monitor the situation and will take further action as needed.

Advice for consumers: Stay vigilant and report wrongdoing

  • Lookout for potentially false or misleading claims about COVID-19 protection. Keep in mind that Health Canada has not yet approved any product to prevent, treat or cure COVID-19. Be skeptical of any miraculous promises or offers that seem too good to be true.
  • Don’t take product reviews, testimonials or endorsements at face value. Some sellers may use fake testimonials or pay others to write positive reviews.
  • Do your research and consult official sources like Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada.
  • Consult the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre’s COVID-19 fraud alert for more tips to protect yourself from the latest scams.
  • Consult the Canada Revenue Agency’s scam alert for tips to protect yourself against scams related to the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.
  • If you suspect that a person or business is making deceptive marketing claims, report it by using the Competition Bureau’s online complaint form.

Advice to businesses: Make sure your marketing complies with the law

  • The Competition Act prohibits false or misleading claims about any product, service, or business interest. It also prohibits performance claims that are not backed up by adequate and proper testing.
  • Review your marketing to identify any claims related to the prevention or treatment of COVID-19 that may be false, misleading, or unsubstantiated.
  • Take immediate action to ensure your marketing practices comply with the law, or potentially face severe penalties, including fines and jail time.

High prices and collusion

The Competition Bureau is hearing from many Canadians concerned about high prices for goods and services during the pandemic. While charging high prices is not in itself an offence under the Competition Act, the Bureau will scrutinize any evidence that companies or individuals have violated Canada’s competition laws. Where there is evidence that prices have been affected by collusion by competing businesses—such as illegal price-fixing or bid-rigging agreements—the Bureau will take action to protect Canadians.

If you have concerns about high prices related to the COVID-19 pandemic, you may also wish to contact your provincial or territorial consumer affairs agency.

If you suspect collusion by competing businesses, report it by using the Competition Bureau’s online complaint form.

 

 

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