If you thought the investigation into price fixing on bread in Canada was over long ago – think again. Canada Bread was fined $50 million earlier this month for conspiring with other bakers to artificially elevate the wholesale price of bread…
Fresh out of the oven, loaves of daily bread snake up and down a long
conveyor belt, cooling before being sliced and bagged,
As you may recall, a group of Canada’s largest commercial bread bakers was found guilty of price fixing back in 2017. At the same time, a coterie of Canadian supermarket chains was found guilty of artificially elevating the price of bread at the retail level. The fixing took place between 2007 and 2011.
Canada Bread broke the case wide open when it turned state’s evidence and cooperated with the Competition Bureau of Canada investigation. Since then, a number of things have happened.
First, the bread companies offered a rebate to customers that would allegedly cover the difference between the inflated price they had been charging, and the lesser price they should have been charging.
Canada Bread was then owned by Weston Foods, which also controlled Loblaw’s supermarkets. As part of the remedy in the case, Weston sold Canada Bread to Groupo Bimbo, a huge food brands conglomerate based in Europe.
The latest chapter
The latest development in the tale of the inflated bread came just last week. Canada Bread plead guilty in Ontario Superior Court to its part in the conspiracy. Rather than receiving a lenient penalty, as recommended by the Competition Bureau (Canada Bread, after all, cooperated with it), the court slammed the bakery behemoth with a $50 million fine. That’s the maximum applicable under the law, less a leniency ‘discount’ for Canada Bread’s co-operation and guilty plea.
“Fixing the price of bread, a food staple of Canadian households, was a serious criminal offence. Our continuing investigation remains a top priority. We are doing everything in our power to pursue those who engage in price-fixing,” Matthew Boswell, Commissioner of Competition said, on announcement of the fine.
In 2017, Weston and Loblaw’s head honcho Galen Weston said: “As a result of the co-operation we [Canada Bread was still a division of Weston, then] have provided to the Competition Bureau, neither George Weston Ltd. nor Loblaw or their respective employees will face criminal charges or penalties,” Weston’s and Loblaw’s CEO Galen Weston told the Canadian Press. “This is a difficult matter and clearly something that never should have happened.”
So, Weston’s got off scot free, and left poor old Bimbo holding the (bread) bag.
By the way…
Have you noticed any decline in the price of bread over the past few years? Or did the chaos of the COVID Crisis mess things up so much we’ll never again be able to tell what the fair price of anything should be?
~ Maggie J.