Alert - Professional Associations Under Competition Bureau Scrutiny

Download this publication December 9, 2013

In a speech delivered on December 5, 2013, John Pecman, the Commissioner of Competition, provided an update on the Competition Bureau’s recent advocacy efforts. Several points he made are of particular interest to professional associations.

The Competition Bureau has demonstrated a renewed focus on securing compliance through advocacy-related initiatives since Mr. Pecman was appointed Commissioner. In September 2013, the Competition Bureau launched a public consultation seeking the assistance of Canadians to identify sectors of the economy in which it could advocate for increased competition. According to the Commissioner, the Bureau has received many submissions in response to this request for input. Among the sectors identified by the public as requiring more competition are the telecommunications sector, the pharmaceutical sector and self-regulated professions.

Other recent advocacy efforts mentioned by the Commissioner include:

  • submissions to the Alberta College of Pharmacists regarding the College’s proposed prohibition on inducements offered by pharmacists;
  • submissions to the CRTC in response to its Wireless Code Working Paper; and
  • the creation on the Competition Bureau website of a dedicated Advocacy Portal, where the Bureau will post its submissions and letters advocating for increased competition.

The Commissioner also disclosed that the Competition Bureau is currently reviewing restrictions on advertising that certain professional associations place on their members. This is not the first time that the Competition Bureau has looked into the rules and regulations governing self-regulated professions. In 2007, the Bureau released a comprehensive report examining the impact of self-regulation on competition across five professions in Canada: accountants, lawyers, optometrists, pharmacists and real estate agents. Advertising restrictions were among the issues addressed by this report. The Bureau’s principal concern was that, in its view, many of the restrictions imposed by the professions extended beyond what was necessary to protect consumers from false or misleading advertising. That is presumably the basis for the ongoing investigation as well.

A summary of the Commissioner’s speech is available on the Bureau’s website.

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