Suncor pleads guilty to gas price-fixing charge

Fri Apr 13, 2012 3:24pm EDT
 
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CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Suncor Energy Inc (SU.TO: Quote), Canada's biggest oil refiner and retailer, said on Friday it agreed to pay C$500,000 ($500,000) fine after pleading guilty to charges that it and a competitor worked to fix the price of gasoline in a small Ontario city in 2007.

The Canadian Competition Bureau charged that Pioneer and Suncor's Sunoco retail gas chain in Belleville, a city of 49,000 172 kilometers (107 miles) east of Toronto, coordinated their response to changes in their competitors' gasoline prices between May and November 2007, an offense under the country's Competition Act.

Suncor and Pioneer, an independent gasoline retailer, have a joint venture, operated by Pioneer, that owns gasoline stations in Ontario.

"Our representative understood the rules barring competitive communication but believed they did not include Pioneer because they were an owner in the joint venture," said Sneh Seetal, a spokeswoman for Suncor.

Seetal said that once Suncor was informed of the bureau's investigation it moved to ensure that there were no more communications on gasoline pricing with Pioneer and boosted competition-law training for its employees.

The case was heard in the Ontario Superior Court in Belleville.

($1 = $1 Canadian)

(Reporting by Scott Haggett; Editing by Bob Burgdorfer)