Competition Bureau of Canada

February 17, 2012 17:09 ET

Quebec Construction Companies Plead Guilty to Rigging Bids for the Chicoutimi Hospital

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Feb. 17, 2012) - The Competition Bureau announced today Construction G.T.R.L. (1990) Inc., Acoustique JCG Inc., and Entreprises de Construction OPC Inc. have pleaded guilty in the Quebec Superior Court to bid-rigging related to the expansion of the Chicoutimi Hospital in 2003.

The court ordered Construction G.T.R.L to pay a fine of $50,000, and Acoustique JCG and Entreprises de Construction OPC to pay a fine of $25,000 each. The companies are subject to a court order for a period of 10 years.

"Bid-rigging harms everyone but the criminals who cheat the system for their own financial gain," said Melanie Aitken, Commissioner of Competition. "In this case, the bid-rigging scheme ultimately harmed the Chicoutimi Hospital and Saguenay residents, by preventing the hospital from obtaining a competitive price for its renovation."

The Bureau announced in November 2008 that three construction companies, and certain of their executives, were charged with rigging bids submitted for the expansion and refitting of the emergency room at the Chicoutimi Hospital in 2003. The Bureau's investigation found that the parties entered into an agreement to pre-determine the winner of the contract. The parties have now pleaded guilty for rigging bids for the Chicoutimi Hospital contract.

The Bureau's investigation benefitted from cooperation under the Bureau's Immunity Program. The program, as well as the Bureau's Leniency Program, creates incentives for parties to address their criminal liability by cooperating with the Bureau in its ongoing investigation and prosecution of other alleged cartel participants.

In March 2009, the bid-rigging provision of the Competition Act was amended. Given that the conduct in question occurred prior to the amendments, the accused in this case were charged under the previous bid-rigging provision, which stated that it was a criminal offence for two or more bidders to agree that one party will refrain from bidding, or to agree among themselves on bids submitted without informing the person calling for the bids about the agreement. The penalties for violating the previous bid-rigging provision of the Act were a possible prison sentence of up to five years and/or a fine at the discretion of the court.

In March 2009, the Act was amended to explicitly prohibit withdrawal of bids and the penalties for bid-rigging increased to a fine at the discretion of the court and/or a prison sentence of up to 14 years.

The Competition Bureau, as an independent law enforcement agency, ensures that Canadian businesses and consumers prosper in a competitive and innovative marketplace.

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