With gas prices soaring in today’s unstable and battered economy many of us are left wondering if our cars are about to become our new homes. Though concerns such as potential military action against Iran, the closing of oil refineries in the United States, and increased demand during the spring and summer months are all easily conceived reasons for selling your first born in an effort to get to work, there’s one factor that may leave consumers feeling rightfully enraged: Price gouging at the pumps.
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Just yesterday Canadian Tire Corporation, Pioneer Energy LP, and Mr. Gas pleaded guilty to fixing the price of gasoline from May to November 2007 in Kingston and Brockville, Ontario. The three companies were fined a total of $2 million.
"Consumers in Kingston and Brockville were denied a competitive price for gasoline as a result of this criminal price-fixing cartel," said Melanie Aitken, Commissioner of Competition. "The Bureau will not hesitate to take action when it uncovers evidence of illegal price-fixing."
The Kingston/Brockville case was brought to light through the bureau’s immunity program which states that if companies are found to have violated the Competition Act and the Criminal Code, the bureau has the ability to formally investigate the charges. The power to request and execute search warrants, the subpoena of records and witnesses, and the ability to wiretap are all tools that the bureau has at its disposal to determine illegal activity.
The Competition Act and the Immunity Program are put in place to protect consumers from paying higher prices at the pump and discouraging illegal behavior from owners trying to benefit from a beleaguered economy. As consumers become more aware of the laws and programs that protect them from this kind of activity, the less criminals will try to pilfer our pockets at the pump.