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Competition Bureau to probe grocery pricing


Canada’s Competition Bureau says it is launching a study on competition in the grocery industry.

The agency said in a press release Monday that it plans to investigate various issues in the grocery industry, “with the goal of recommending measures the government can take to help improve competition in the industry.”

The agency functions as Canada’s best-known consumer watchdog group by investigating anticompetitive practices that drive consumer prices up, including such things as deceptive marketing, price fixing and so on. and even outright cheating.

The office said the move was not in response to any specific allegations of misconduct, but it came as consumers grapple with food prices rising at their fastest rate in more than 40 years.

Last week, new data showed that while Canada’s inflation rate fell to 6.9%, the price of food bought in stores was still up more than 11%.

Many factors are blamed for the rapid rise in food prices, including extreme weather events, higher input costs, and temporary supply chain strains such as the current invasion of Ukraine. But the office said it wanted to try to find out if any anti-competitive factors were at play, so it was looking for answers to three big questions:

  • To what extent are higher grocery prices the result of changing competitive dynamics?
  • What can we learn from steps other countries have taken to increase competition in this area?
  • How can governments lower barriers to entry and expand to stimulate competition for consumers?

A previous investigation by the office into food price trends showed that some companies have colluded to fix the price of bread and pies for many years, at the expense of the consumer. That investigation is continuing.

More to come

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