Bill 33 2003
An Act respecting
the price of motor vehicle fuel
and the appointment of a
Gas Price Watchdog
Her Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Ontario, enacts as follows:
1. In this Act,
"consumer" means a person who acquires motor vehicle fuel for his or her own use and not for the purpose of selling, exchanging or otherwise disposing thereof and does not include a person who purchases motor vehicle fuel for use in a business under a written contract containing bulk purchasing provisions with volume discounts; ("consommateur")
"Gas Price Watchdog" means the person appointed to hold office under section 3; ("agent de surveillance des prix du carburant")
"manufacturer" means any person who manufactures, refines or makes motor vehicle fuel or any component thereof; ("fabricant")
"Minister" means the Minister of Consumer and Business Services; ("ministre")
"motor vehicle" means any vehicle legally entitled to be driven on public roads, highways and streets and which operates by means of motor vehicle fuel; ("véhicule automobile")
"motor vehicle fuel" means a liquid product, whether or not distilled or recovered from petroleum, which by itself or in mixture with other products, by combustion, develops the power required for operating internal combustion engines, and includes gasoline, diesel fuels, propane and ethanol fuels; ("carburant pour véhicules automobiles")
"prescribed" means prescribed by regulation; ("prescrit")
"regulation" means a regulation made under this Act; ("règlement")
"retailer" means a person who keeps for sale or sells motor vehicle fuel to a consumer and includes a person who is also a wholesaler; ("détaillant")
"retailer margin" means the difference between the price at which a retailer buys a motor vehicle fuel from a wholesaler and the price at which the retailer sells the motor vehicle fuel to a consumer; ("marge brute du détaillant")
"retail outlet" includes every location at which a retailer sells motor vehicle fuel, whether on a permanent or temporary basis; ("point de vente")
"wholesaler" means a person who keeps for sale or sells motor vehicle fuel to a retailer, and includes a person who is also a retailer. ("grossiste")
2. The purpose of this Act is,
(a) to ensure that retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers be accountable to the public with respect to the pricing of motor vehicle fuel;
(b) to ensure reasonable and competitive prices of motor vehicle fuel within Ontario; and
(c) to protect employees of retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers from retaliation for having disclosed any pricing practices of the retailer, wholesaler or manufacturer that contravene this Act.
Gas Price Watchdog
3. (1) An office is hereby established to be known as the Gas Price Watchdog in English and agent de surveillance des prix du carburant in French.
(2) The Lieutenant Governor in Council may appoint a person to hold the office of Gas Price Watchdog.
Qualification, term of appointment
(3) The qualifications, term of appointment and replacement of the Gas Price Watchdog shall be as set out in the regulations.
(4) The duties of the Gas Price Watchdog are,
(a) to monitor and report to the Minister on pricing practices with respect to motor vehicle fuel in the Province;
(b) to conduct inquiries under section 4;
(c) to receive, consider and determine the validity of complaints about reprisals made under section 7; and
(d) to carry out such other duties as may be prescribed.
Inquiry by Gas Price Watchdog
4. (1) Upon order of the Minister, the Gas Price Watchdog shall conduct an inquiry into pricing practices in the Province with respect to motor vehicle fuel.
Scope of inquiry
(2) The scope of the inquiry shall be specified by the Minister and may be limited to one or more retailer, wholesaler or manufacturer.
(3) The Gas Price Watchdog may hold public hearings in the course of an inquiry under this section.
(4) The Minister shall order the Gas Price Watchdog to conduct an inquiry under subsection (1) if the Minister receives a petition requesting an inquiry into a matter relating to the price of motor vehicle fuel and the petition is signed by at least 50,000 residents of Ontario.
(5) The Gas Price Watchdog shall prepare a report of the results of its inquiry for the Minister who shall table the report in the Assembly.
Prohibition, collusion to set prices
5. (1) No person shall conspire, agree or collude to increase or decrease the price of motor vehicle fuel.
Prohibition, collusion to set retailer margin
(2) No person shall conspire, agree or collude to increase or decrease the retailer margin with respect to motor vehicle fuel.
Evidence of collusion
(3) Evidence of two or more retailers, wholesalers or manufacturers increasing or decreasing the price of motor vehicle fuel or the retailer margin with respect to motor vehicle fuel simultaneously or in close succession shall not, absent any corroborating evidence of actual communication or agreement between the parties, constitute sufficient evidence of conspiracy, agreement or collusion for the purposes of a conviction under subsection (1) or (2).
6. No retailer, wholesaler or manufacturer of motor vehicle fuel shall dismiss, discipline, penalize or in any way coerce or intimidate an employee because the employee has, acting in good faith, done any of the following:
1. Complied with or sought the enforcement of this Act or the regulations.
2. Given information to an appropriate authority for the purposes of an investigation or inquiry related to the enforcement of this Act or the regulations.
3. Given evidence in a proceeding under this Act.
4. Done a prescribed act.
Complaints about reprisals
7. (1) Any person may file a written complaint with the Gas Price Watchdog alleging that an employer has contravened section 6.
Inquiry by Gas Price Watchdog
(2) The Gas Price Watchdog shall inquire into any complaint received under subsection (1).
Order of Gas Price Watchdog
(3) If the Gas Price Watchdog, after inquiring into the complaint, is satisfied that the employer has contravened section 6, the Gas Price Watchdog shall make one or more of the following orders:
1. An order directing the employer to cease doing the act or acts complained of.
2. An order directing the employer to rectify the act or acts complained of.
3. An order directing the employer to reinstate in employment or hire the employee, with or without compensation, or to compensate, instead of hiring or reinstatement, for loss of earnings or other employment benefits in an amount determined by the Gas Price Watchdog.
Failure to comply
(4) If an employer fails to comply with a term of an order made under subsection (3) within 14 days of the date the order was made, the employee may file a copy of the order with the Superior Court of Justice and the order may be enforced as though it were an order of the court.
(5) This section shall not be interpreted so as to limit any other right an employee may have under this Act, any other Act or at law to seek a remedy with respect to adverse employment action.
8. (1) The Minister may appoint inspectors for the purpose of ensuring compliance with this Act.
(2) For the purpose of determining whether this Act is being complied with, an inspector may, without a warrant, enter and inspect places owned or operated by a retailer, wholesaler or manufacturer.
(3) The Minister may, in an appointment, restrict the inspector's powers of entry and inspection to specified places or types of places.
Time of entry
(4) The power to enter and inspect a place without a warrant may be exercised only during daylight hours or, in the case of a place of business, during the place's regular business hours.
(5) The power to enter and inspect a place without a warrant shall not be exercised to enter and inspect a part of the place that is used as a dwelling unless reasonable notice has been given to the occupier of the dwelling.
Use of force
(6) An inspector is not entitled to use force to enter and inspect a place.
(7) An inspector conducting an inspection shall produce, on request, evidence of his or her appointment.
Powers of inspectors
(8) An inspector conducting an inspection may,
(a) examine a record or other thing that is relevant to the inspection;
(b) demand the production for inspection of a document or other thing that is relevant to the inspection;
(c) remove for review and copying a record or other thing that is relevant to the inspection;
(d) in order to produce a record in readable form, use data storage, information processing or retrieval devices or systems that are normally used in carrying on business in the place; and
(e) question a person on matters relevant to the inspection.
(9) A demand that a record or other thing be produced for inspection must be in writing and must include a statement of the nature of the record or thing required.
Obligation to produce and assist
(10) If an inspector demands that a record or other thing be produced for inspection, the person who has custody of the record or thing shall produce it and, in the case of a record, shall on request provide any assistance that is reasonably necessary to interpret the record or to produce it in a readable form.
Removal of things
(11) A record or other thing that has been removed for review and copying,
(a) shall be made available to the person from whom it was removed, for review and copying, on request and at a time and place that are convenient for the person and for the inspector; and
(b) shall be returned to the person within a reasonable time.
Copy admissible in evidence
(12) A copy of a record that purports to be certified by an inspector as being a true copy of the original is admissible in evidence to the same extent as the original, and has the same evidentiary value.
(13) No person shall hinder, obstruct or interfere with an inspector conducting an inspection, refuse to answer questions on matters relevant to the inspection or provide the inspector with information, on matters relevant to the inspection, that the person knows to be false or misleading.
9. (1) Any person who contravenes subsection 5 (1) or (2), section 6 or subsection 8 (13) is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable to a fine of up to,
(a) $20,000, if the person is an individual; or
(b) $250,000, if the person is a corporation.
(2) A court may prohibit a retailer, wholesaler or manufacturer convicted of an offence referred to in subsection (1) from selling motor vehicle fuel for a period of up to three months.
Directors and officers
10. (1) A director or officer of a corporation that engages in the sale of motor vehicle fuel has a duty to take reasonable care to prevent the corporation from contravening subsection 5 (1) or (2), section 6 or subsection 8 (13).
(2) A director or officer who is subject to a duty under subsection (1) and fails to carry it out is, on conviction, liable to a fine of up to $75,000.
Failure to pay fines
11. A person who is convicted of an offence under section 9 or under subsection 10 (2) and who fails to pay the imposed fine is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable to imprisonment for up to 12 months.
12. (1) The Lieutenant Governor in Council may make regulations,
(a) governing the qualifications of the Gas Price Watchdog, his or her remuneration, term of appointment and replacement;
(b) respecting the process for making a petition under subsection 4 (4) and the requirements and qualifications of signatories to the petition;
(c) prescribing the duties of the Gas Price Watchdog;
(d) prescribing anything referred to in this Act as prescribed;
(e) establishing a process of mediation or arbitration for any complaint made under section 7;
(f) respecting any matter considered necessary or advisable to carry out effectively the purposes of this Act.
(2) A regulation may be general or specific in its application.
13. This Act comes into force on the day it receives Royal Assent.
14. The short title of this Act is the Gas Price Watchdog Act, 2003.
The main purpose of the Bill is to ensure that retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers of motor vehicle fuel be accountable to the public with respect to the pricing of the fuel.
The Bill would establish the office of Gas Price Watchdog, to be appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council. The Gas Price Watchdog would monitor and report to the Minister of Consumer and Business Services on pricing practices in the Province with respect to motor vehicle fuel and conduct inquiries into pricing practices on order of the Minister. The duties of the Gas Price Watchdog are set out in subsection 3 (4).
Section 5 would prohibit a person from conspiring to increase or decrease the price of motor vehicle fuel or the retailer margin with respect to motor vehicle fuel.
Section 6 would prohibit retailers, wholesalers or manufacturers of motor vehicle fuel from taking reprisals against employees who in any way seek compliance with the Act or help in its enforcement. An employee who is the subject of such reprisals may complain to the Gas Price Watchdog, who may make an order to correct the situation. An order by the Gas Price Watchdog shall not prevent the employee from seeking any other remedy available to him or her under this Act, another Act or at law.
Section 8 would allow the Minister to appoint inspectors who are given the power to enter and search premises owned or operated by retailers, wholesalers or manufacturers for the purpose of ensuring compliance with the Act.
Sections 9 and 10 would create certain offences for contravention of the Act.