George Weston Ltd. and Loblaw Companies Ltd. revealed Tuesday that both the bakery owner and grocer participated in an industry-wide bread price-fixing arrangement for over a decade, but will receive immunity after tipping off Canada’s competition watchdog.
The companies became aware of an arrangement involving the co-ordination of retail and wholesale prices of some packaged breads from late 2001 until March 2015, they said in a joint statement.
They notified the Competition Bureau and have co-operated as an immunity applicant since March 2015.
Weston said, “As a result of the co-operation we have provided to the Competition Bureau, neither George Weston Ltd. nor Loblaw or their respective employees will face criminal charges or penalties.”
Last month, the Competition Bureau executed warrants to search the offices of certain grocers to gather evidence, but said that there had been no conclusion of wrongdoing and no charges had been laid.
The employees responsible for the companies’ role in the arrangement are no longer employed there.
Loblaw is also offering eligible customers who register online at LoblawCard.ca before May a $25 gift card that can be used at its grocery stores across Canada. Registration will open January 8.
Loblaw Companies Ltd.’s attempt to mitigate potential damage from an investigation into an alleged industry-wide bread price-fixing scheme through its admission of guilt and gift card offering has been met with backlash from skeptical consumers and indignant competitors alike.
However, some early visitors to the sign-up page have expressed concern that the bare bones site looks like a phishing attempt by savvy scammers.
The site, which went live Tuesday, did not initially include text about user privacy and the company’s use of the email addresses it collects. It has since been updated to “to make the limited use of the email addresses more explicit to users,” spokesman Kevin Groh told The Canadian Press on Thursday.