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Canadian Bar Association Talks Against New Antitrust Reforms

 |  June 6, 2022

Waves of industry consolidation over the decades have resulted in fewer choices for customers from telecoms to banking, with Canadians paying the world’s most expensive mobile phone bills and forking out more for everyday banking, consumer advocates say.

Now, the government says enough is enough. It wants to put some teeth in its antitrust regulations, much like the far-ranging powers wielded by authorities in the United States, the European Union and Australia.

The proposed changes to the Competition Act are coming after more than a decade. They would include giving the antitrust agency, the Competition Bureau Canada, the authority to seek remedial action in an overseas merger if that would impact competition in Canada.

But lobby groups, including the influential Canadian Bar Association (CBA), have challenged the new proposals.

“Whether and why there are monopolies in markets are factually, legally and economically complex questions,” Omar Wakil, the CBA’s chair and president, said in an interview.

“So I don’t think one can simply state that there are monopolies and that is because of a problem with the competition laws,” said Wakil, a partner at law firm Torys LLP.

Nearly a dozen consumer advocates, academicians and policy experts contacted by Reuters said the government’s efforts to break monopolies in Canada were much needed, but they argue the proposed rule changes would fail to undo the damage to consumers from years of big mergers, as the new rules are unlikely to lead to the breakup of large corporations.

The CBA sent a letter to Canada’s minister of innovation, science and industry, François-Philippe Champagne, on May 18. The letter, which was seen by Reuters, asked to defer the amendments until all stakeholders are consulted.

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