Bid-rigging, price-fixing and other agreements between competitors — Common types of illegal agreements that hinder competition

Many types of agreements between competitors can enhance competition and benefit the economy. However, certain agreements, such as cartel agreements, can result in significant harm to competition.


Like any business owner,

you want to grow your company and make a profit.

But there are many hazards to watch out for, like cartels.

A cartel is a group of independent businesses

that agree to engage in anti-competitive activities

like fixing prices, allocating customers or markets,

restricting production or rigging bids.

Cartels are harmful and illegal because they lead to

higher prices, decreased product choice

and less innovation.

They can be big or small,

with various degrees of formality and secrecy

from a loose arrangement made over dinner

to highly structured agreements

with exclusive membership rules.

In fact, you might be taking part in illegal behaviour

and not even know it!

Say you and another company are bidding for the same work.

You agree to drop your bid or raise your prices

so the other guy wins the contract.

Or maybe you and a competitor agree not to expand

into each other's markets,

ensuring both sides remain profitable.

Many business owners aren't aware

that these kinds of agreements

are illegal under the Competition Act

and can result in fines, jail time or both.

If you think you're involved in a cartel but are worried

about the consequences of disclosing your actions

there are advantages to talking to the Competition Bureau.

For instance, you may be granted immunity from prosecution

if you're the first to tell us about your cartel's activities.

If others have already come forward, you may

receive lenient treatment by sharing what you know.

And if you're not directly involved in a cartel,

you can still provide information to us

as a whistleblower, confidentially if requested.

What you don't know about cartels can hurt you.

Visit our website today

to learn more about the tools and programs available

to help protect you and your business.

Video length: 2 minutes, 38 seconds

A cartel forms when two or more parties agree not to compete with one another. A cartel can be created through a simple verbal agreement made by a group of business people over lunch or it could be a highly structured arrangement with strict rules that are monitored and enforced. Cartels can operate in almost any industry and can be local, regional, national, or international.

There are six common types of illegal agreements: price-fixing, market allocation, restricting supply, bid-rigging, wage-fixing and no-poaching.

Price fixing
When two or more competing businesses agree to set the same prices for goods or services.
Market allocation
When two or more competitors or potential competitors agree to divide up a market, customers or territory among themselves.
Restricting supply
When competitors or potential competitors agree to limit the amount of goods or services they produce or supply to a market.

When bidding companies agree that a specific supplier will win a contract. For example, as part of an agreement with another company or companies, one company might agree not to submit a bid, to withdraw a bid, or to submit an agreed upon bid.

However, bid-rigging occurs only if the person who has issued the call for bids is not informed of the proposed agreement between the companies at or before the tender period closes.

New as of June 23, 2023


Wage-fixing and no-poaching agreements

Agreements between employers to agree to fix, maintain, decrease or control wages or other terms of employment, as well as to refrain from hiring or trying to hire one another’s employees, are illegal as of June 23, 2023.


Guidance for businesses

The Competition Bureau has published guidance for businesses related to these amendments.

Penalties for illegal agreements

Under the Competition Act, it is a criminal offence to engage in an illegal agreement. Anyone convicted of participating in bid-rigging, price-fixing, allocating markets, restricting supply, wage-fixing or no-poaching agreements will have a criminal record.

The penalty for violating the illegal agreements provisions includes a fine to be set at the discretion of the court, imprisonment for up to fourteen years, or a combination of both.

In addition, victims have the right to sue perpetrators to recover damages.

How to ensure compliance with the Competition Act

If you are unsure about what complying with the Competition Act means for your business, we recommend that you seek legal advice.

You can protect your business by having an effective compliance program in place. This will help your company comply with the law and it could reduce the risks associated with non-compliance. Like an early-warning system, a compliance program can help you detect and correct unlawful conduct quickly before it damages your company, your reputation, and your bottom line.

We also facilitate compliance by providing written opinions (fees apply) on proposed practices. A written opinion is binding if the material facts on which the opinion is based are accurate, complete, and remain substantially unchanged.

Further reading