More choice at lower prices: Interim Commissioner of Competition calls for more competition in British Columbia liquor industry

News release

January 17, 2019 — OTTAWA, ON

In an open letter to the Honourable David Eby, Attorney General of British Columbia, Matthew Boswell, Interim Commissioner of Competition, encourages the province to consider the principles of competition while it reviews its liquor policy.

Under British Columbia’s current liquor policy, private liquor distributors cannot sell their products to hospitality retailers. Restaurants, bars and hotels are limited to buying their alcohol products from government-owned stores at retail prices, as opposed to cheaper, wholesale prices. This policy restricts competition, raises prices for consumers, and limits access to a wider variety of specialty products.

“The growth of new and innovative producers such as craft breweries has brought an influx of unique products to the market,” says Boswell. “Limiting the ability of these producers to access the market and effectively promote themselves threatens to stifle competition and innovation.”

The Competition Bureau supports two recommendations made in a report commissioned by the Government of British Columbia as part of the ongoing review of its liquor policy:

  • Implement proper wholesale pricing for restaurants, bars and hotels, and
  • Allow them to purchase liquor products from any licensed source in British Columbia, including privately owned stores.

The Competition Bureau believes these recommendations will encourage greater innovation and competition in British Columbia’s alcohol industry, leading to more choice and better prices for businesses and consumers in the province.

Quotes

“I commend the Honourable David Eby’s efforts to protect the interest of consumers and businesses in British Columbia. I believe that an updated liquor policy that takes into account competition principles will lead to a greater number of innovative choices at more competitive prices for consumers.”

– Matthew Boswell,
Interim Commissioner of Competition

Quick facts

  • The Competition Bureau encourages regulators and policymakers to strike the right balance in regulation to ensure consumers and businesses are protected from anti-competitive behaviour without unnecessarily hindering competition and innovation.

  • The Competition Bureau actively promotes competition by intervening before federal and provincial boards, commissions and tribunals, and encouraging and facilitating compliance with the Competition Act.

  • British Columbia reformed its liquor policy in 2015.

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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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