In October, the APA won a landmark decision from the Supreme Court of Canada. In a six-to-one decision the Court allowed the APA’s lawyers access to wiretap evidence held by the Competition Bureau. The lawyers for the defendants, gasoline retailers and distributors large and small in the Province of Quebec, argued that sharing this information was an invasion of their clients’ privacy rights. The Court did not agree. The full decision is posted on the Supreme Court of Canada website.
We’re still going after those wiretaps and more of the Crown’s evidence. The Government of Canada’s lawyers said they will need 16 weeks of full-time work to cross out personal information from their transcripts, and an additional 27 weeks to edit the wiretap conversations and other materials. They want to recover the costs of preparing the material.
The next court date has been set for early February 2015. Judge Godbout will hear all the motions in favour of and opposing access to the Competition Bureau’s file.
1980: In Labranche vs. Imperial Oil et al, the APA loses a request to authorise a class action against the oil companies for overpayments made by motorists due to illegal practices in the retailing of gasoline over a 20 year period.
Article in the Journal de Quebec. Gas station owner Christian Goulet complains that his service station is being vandalised because he is selling below the price set by local retailers. This article eventually makes its way to the Competition Bureau.
2004: Competition Bureau begins its “Octane” investigation over allegations of price fixing in certain regional markets in Quebec.
2006 Competition Bureau executes search warrants at several gasoline retailers’ offices.
In 2008, the Bureau lays criminal charges against 54 companies and individuals for price fixing in the retail gasoline markets in Victoriaville, Thetford Mines, Sherbrooke and Magog.
Four class actions are filed within the next day. Lawyers in the first and second class actions combine their efforts and the APA joins the case.
November 2009: Justice Dominique Bélanger of the Quebec Superior Court authorizes the class action in Simon Jacques, Marcel Lafontaine and the APA vs Couche Tard, Ultramar, Pétroles Therrien, Olco, Pétroles Cadrin, Pétroles Global et al. About 200,000 people live in the area covered.
2011: Based on information in the Crown’s evidence APA’s lawyers were able to obtain by attending criminal prosecutions against some of the defendants, they file another class action to cover a much larger area where the government did not lay charges. This new action covers Quebec City and the Lower Saint Lawrence Valley, population about 800,000.
June 2012: Justice Bélanger orders lawyers from the Competition Bureau and Director of Public Prosecutions to share evidence in their files of criminal activity with us. Subject to a publication ban and other restrictions, the lawyers and experts alone are granted access to wiretap evidence.
A second class action is authorized in Daniel Thouin vs Couche Tard, Ultramar, Irving Oil, Imperial Oil et al for the larger market not covered by the Competition Bureau’s criminal charges.
2012: The Court of Appeal rejects appeals wanting to reverse access to the wiretaps. Some of the Defendants appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.
2013: Trial Judge Dominique Bélanger is appointed to the Quebec Court of Appeal. A new judge, Bernard Godbout is assigned to the case.
2014: In a six-to-one decision, the Supreme Court of Canada upholds access to wiretap evidence for APA and the other plaintiffs. The Court agrees that the trial judge has authority to impose conditions on access to protect the privacy rights and ensure a fair criminal process for the defendants. Neither the Competition Act nor the Criminal Code creates a blanket immunity for the defendants from the sharing of evidence of their unlawful activities. The case is referred back to the Superior Court.
Consumers in the affected markets can register themselves at the website of one of the two law firms acting for the APA: www.paquettegadler.com.