* Irving Oil Ltd, manager face three counts each
* Company says it will fight the charges
* Competition Bureau investigation made public in 2008
By Jeffrey Jones
CALGARY, Alberta, Sept 28 Canada's Competition
Bureau has charged Irving Oil Ltd, part of the big Eastern
Canadian family-run business empire, and one of its managers in
a sweeping Quebec gasoline price-fixing case that has already
resulted in jail terms and C$3 million ($3.1 million) in fines,
the agency said on Friday.
Irving Oil and the manager of the company's business in
Quebec, Serge Parent, each face three charges in connection with
fixing the price of fuel in Victoriaville, Thetford Mines and
Sherbrooke, Quebec, the federal bureau said in a statement.
Parent could not immediately be reached for comment.
Saint John, New Brunswick-based Irving Oil said it plans to
fight the charges in court.
The investigation into what the competition watchdog calls a
price-fixing cartel was first made public in 2008 and involved
wiretaps and searches, the bureau said. To date, 15 companies
and 39 individuals have been charged. Many have been sentenced
and some cases are still before the courts.
Investigators found that retailers in some of the Quebec
markets, or their representatives, communicated with each other
to agree on prices to charge at the pumps.
Irving Oil, which runs the country's largest refinery in
Saint John and a chain of service stations in Eastern Canada and
the U.S. Northeast, said the charges are apparently based on the
activities of former staff who have previously pleaded guilty in
The company said it was not aware of price fixing activities
by its staff prior to 2007.
"Our company was not aware of these activities and, when our
company became aware of them, we took immediate steps to address
the situation, including disciplinary action," spokeswoman
Carolyn Van der Veen said in an email. "Our company believes
that we should not be held responsible for the actions of
employees who knowingly violated company policy."
Among the companies charged in the investigation are
Couche-Tard Inc, Les Pétroles Global Inc, Ultramar and
Philippe Gosselin et Associés. The Couche-Tard and Les Pétroles
Global cases are still before the courts.
The bureau said such cases are hard to prove, as high or
identical pump prices alone are not evidence of criminal
"There must be evidence that competitors have made an
illegal agreement to set those prices," it said. "When there are
substantiated allegations of wrongdoing in the marketplace, the
bureau will not hesitate to take action."