As a follow-up goodwill gesture, the retailer then announced it would offer Canadians a $25 gift card.
The company estimated that three to six million people would participate, costing it up to $150m to mitigate both financial and public-relations losses.
However, the small financial compensation – which can only be used at a Loblaw store for certain items – has caused an outrage among several Canadian consumers and was even called a “deceitful public relations” campaign by one class action complainant.
Perhaps in light of the mounting number of lawsuits, the retailer earlier this week warned customers who take advantage of the payback that any possible legal damages awarded would be minus that $25.
Loblaw and Weston received criminal imunity by voluntarily notifying the Competition Bureau of their participation in the scheme that lasted from 2001 to 2015.
Our day in court
However, Canadians are not letting the two companies off the hook, and so far, several potential class-action lawsuits have been launched.
The class actions lawsuits have also been filed against Empire Company Limited, Sobeys Inc., Metro Inc., Walmart Stores, Walmart Canada Corp., Giant Tiger Stores Ltd., Grupo Bimbo S.A.B. de C.V. and Canada Bread, alleging they, too, were involved in a bread price fixing scheme.
Among the suits are:
- Toronto firm Strosberg Sasso Sutts has filed a class action lawsuit in Ontario, seeking $1bn in damages and $100m in punitive damages.
- Another suit, led by Sotos LLP, has as its lead plaintiff Irene Breckon, a senior citizen and the head of the Anti-Poverty Coalition in Ontario, while Winnipeg-based law firm Bondreu Law is representing Derek Nepinak, former grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs. Both Breckon and Nepinak are seeking $1bn in damages on behalf of all Canadians who purchased bread from Loblaw and the other grocery giants.
- Saskatchewan-based Merchant Law Group LLP is also pursuing a class-action lawsuit, while LPC Avocat has filed a motion in Montreal on behalf of James Govan.
The multiple suits could lead to a motion for carriage – which would see one firm chosen to proceed – although Winnipeg lawyer Normal Boudreau said it is more likely there will be a consortium of firms that will lead the class action.
As the Canada’s Competition Bureau is continuing with the inquiry after having executed searches at the offices of Loblaw, George Weston, Metro, Sobeys, Walmart Canada and Canada Bread, a ban is still in effect by the searched parties on disclosing many of the facts surrounding the investigation.
Spokespersons from Giant Tiger and Walmart declined to comment on the cases that are appearing before the courts, while the other companies involved did not respond to requests for comment.
Giant Tiger added the company has “no reason to believe at this time” that it or any of its employees was involved with a price-fixing scheme.