OTTAWA -- Canada's competition watchdog has launched a sweeping probe into an alleged chocolate "cartel" and suspect pricing policies that could have involved billions of dollars.
Ontario's Superior Court issued search warrants on Nov. 21 to allow the Competition Bureau to investigate chocolate makers allegedly implicated in a price-fixing scheme.
Details about the probe were scarce yesterday. The Competition Bureau won't say how many chocolate makers it's investigating or which companies are under review.
The bureau also won't say what twigged the agency to the alleged scheme.
"When we conduct a cartel investigation, the obligation on the legislation is that these companies have market power -- i.e., the ability to control price -- so it's generally the major players in an industry that would be under review," said John Pecman, the bureau's assistant deputy commissioner for criminal matters. "But I can't specify exactly who we're investigating."
The Superior Court has sealed the search warrants until the federal watchdog finishes digesting reams of documents on the companies' pricing policies. Investigators could wrap up their search within weeks, Pecman said.
Few in the chocolate industry were willing to speak yesterday about the investigation. Source...