Backgrounder: Market study of retail grocery competition in Canada


The Competition Bureau is launching a study of grocery store competition in Canada. Grocery prices are increasing quickly, so we are going to study how governments can take action to improve competition in the sector. More competition means lower prices, more choices, and better convenience for consumers.

The Competition Bureau is an independent law enforcement agency of the federal government. It is our job to investigate when someone is suspected of doing things that contravene the Competition Act. In addition, we work to find ways to improve competition in Canada. In this study, that is what we are doing. We are trying to find ways that governments can increase competition between grocery retailers.

This study is not a law enforcement investigation. We are not examining any specific allegations of wrongdoing. However, if we do find evidence during this study that someone may be doing something against the law, then we will investigate and take appropriate action.

We will be studying this issue from now until June 2023. When we are done, we will publish a report on our website. That report will share what we learned. It will also contain ideas on how governments can improve competition.

In this study, we will focus on competition in the grocery sector and why prices are so high right now. Some people say it is because inflation has made it more expensive for grocers to buy the products that they sell. Others say that grocers are charging higher prices because they do not face enough competition. We want to better understand these issues. We also want to know what Canada can do to make it easier for new businesses to compete and innovate.

During the study, we will talk to grocery retailers of all sizes. We will talk to governments at the federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal levels. We will talk to experts who study Canada’s grocery industry. And we will talk to people around the world to learn from best practices.

We also want to hear from Canadians. Interested parties can get involved by providing submissions in writing or via oral interviews. Submissions are due by December 16, 2022.

This will be a tough study for us to do. It’s a complex industry. For market studies like this, we do not have the ability to force grocery retailers to give us documents and data that they use to make pricing decisions. Instead, we have to rely on information that is publicly available or provided voluntarily.

Our study will also be informed by our prior investigations in this sector. Some foreign agencies like us have done similar studies in the past. They have asked governments to do things that make it easier for new grocery stores to open. We expect to find similar ideas in our study that will apply to Canada.

We might not have enough information to draw firm conclusions. But we do expect to recommend measures that governments can take to help to improve competition. That is what we do best.

We will share our findings on our website in June 2023. We will provide updates when necessary during the study. We hope that our work will help to increase competition in Canada to save Canadians money, and make grocery shopping easier.

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