As we have noted on several previous occasions, the Competition Bureau has shown a renewed interest in trade associations ever since Commissioner John Pecman assumed office in June 2013. Indeed, Commissioner Pecman made it clear that trade associations were on his enforcement radar screen even while he still held the "Interim" title after former Commissioner Melanie Aitken stepped down in September 2012.
Now, with the announcement of its first ever annual "Anti-cartel Day" on March 24, 2014, the Bureau has once again brought the issue of trade associations to the fore. The Bureau's purpose in launching "Anti-cartel Day" is to raise awareness of the negative consequences of cartels, and to help businesses and individuals avoid engaging in illegal conduct. As part of this effort, the Bureau has developed compliance pamphlets on various topics related to anti-cartel enforcement, including Bid-rigging, Competitor Collaboration and Trade Associations.
The Bureau's Trade Association pamphlet essentially consists of a series of "Do's and Don'ts" to help trade associations and their members avoid liability under the Competition Act. The guidelines relate to topics such as the conduct of meetings, information exchanges, fee guidelines, standard setting, membership criteria, and advertising. The pamphlet with the complete list of "Do's and Don'ts" is available here.
There is nothing especially novel about the Bureau's trade association guidelines in and of themselves. They briefly, but helpfully, touch upon many of the key competition compliance concerns for trade associations. What is noteworthy, however, is that in compiling its materials for "Anti-cartel Day", the Bureau has once again singled out trade associations as a particular concern. The not-so-subtle message is that the Bureau regards trade associations as fertile ground for cartel conduct, and that associations and their members should take heed of the Bureau's suggested "Do's and Don'ts" to avoid unfortunate consequences under the Competition Act. Otherwise, they risk being singled out once more as the recalcitrant "poster children" for anti-competitive conduct when "Anti-cartel Day" rolls around again next year.