Contributing Lawyers

Canada

Cyndee Todgham Cherniak

United States

Susan Kohn Ross

Australia

Andrew Hudson



Canadian Pleads Guilty in Gas Price Fixing Case

This posting comes from Keith Cameron ("Cameron") at Lang Michener LLP's Ottawa office -

For years consumers have questioned fluctuating gas prices, wondering how prices could rise and fall overnight and who exactly was dictating the changes.  In June 2008, the Competition Bureau announced, what the Canadian public generally feared, that the fixing of gas prices was possibly taking place in Canada.  13 individuals and 11 companies were accused of fixing petrol prices in Victoriaville, Thetford Mines, Magog and Sherbrooke, Québec. 

The Bureau’s investigation into gas price fixing only began after receiving a tip about it taking place in the Victoriaville area; the Bureau obtained a warrant to wire tap certain gas stations.  It has been reported that Sheridan Scott, Commissioner of the Competition Bureau, said “thousands of phone calls were intercepted, and there were more than 90 search warrants issued to gather evidence.”  The persons in question allegedly conspired to determine the retail price of gas as well as the timing of price changes.  It was reported that Ms. Scott believes that 21 out of 22 gas stations in Thetford Mines, 23 out of 24 stations in Victoriaville, and 56 out of 65 stations in Sherbrooke conspired to fix gas prices from 2005 to 2007.

On October 31, 2008, Pierre Bourassa, former salesman at Les Pétroles Global Inc. (operating under the name of “Olco”), pled guilty to the criminal charge of conspiring to fix the price of gas in Magog and Sherbrooke, Québec.  Mr. Bourassa was sentenced to serve a one-year prison sentence for his involvement in the conspiracy; however, the Quebec Superior Court agreed to let Mr. Bourassa serve his sentence in the community because of he had no prior criminal record and did not constitute a danger to society.

Mr. Bourassa was the third individual to admit his involvement in conspiring to fix gas prices.  Since June 2008, others that have pled guilty for their involvement in conspiring to fix gas prices include:

·        Daniel Leblond, also a salesman with Olco, who was fined $10,000; 

·        Jacques Ouellet, former employee of Ultramar Ltée., who was fined $50,000;

·        Les Pétroles Therrien Inc. (operating under the name of Petro-T), which was fined $179,000;

·        Distributions Pétrolières Therrien Inc., which was fined $179,000; and

·        Ultramar Ltée., which was fined $1,850,000.

The other 10 individuals and 8 companies, charged in June of 2008, have pled not guilty to conspiracy to fixing the price of gas and will defend themselves before the Quebec Superior Court in the coming months.  The Competition Bureau continues to investigate whether price fixing is taking place in other Canadian communities.

Leave a Reply

remember my information