Prosecution of the retail gasoline price-fixing cartel in Quebec was the culmination of the largest and one of the most successful criminal investigations in the history of the Competition Bureau of Canada. In June 2008, criminal charges were brought against a number of individuals and companies under Section 45 of the Competition Act. The last trial occurred in late 2019. Prior to the 2009 amendments of the Competition Act, the public prosecutor had to demonstrate that the cartel not only existed, but also had the effect of "unduly" lessening competition-an unsuccessful cartel was not a crime. In this article, I review the empirical challenges and discuss how they were addressed to determine that the cartel did successfully increase prices in the markets under investigation. While the formal charges covered the period from early 2004 to mid-2006, data on price variation indicated that the cartel began in early 2001. Based on a difference-in-differences approach, the best estimate of cartel damages ranges from $18.5M to $42.0M for the period 2001-2006, and from $6.7M to $20.9M for the period 2004-2006. In addition to fines imposed on individuals and companies, numerous individuals received conditional prison sentences.
Canadian Competition Law Review, vol. 35, n. 1, September 2022, pp. 134–163