Monday, July 11, 2011

Enforcing Competition!

Sounds like an oxymoron? It is. Do yourself a favour and get hold of a copy of the July 9th, 2011 Financial Post. Terence Corcoran's column alone is worth it. The column itself is written in the style of an advertisement, so it doesn't display very well online if you click the link.
Mr. Corcoran introduces Melanie Aitken, Commisioner of the Competition Bureau of Canada. Ms. Aitken was in the news lately because of a $10 million monetary penalty imposed on Bell Canada for misleading ads. Actually they weren't entirely misleading, the "exceptions" were posted in the price disclaimers under the ad, common practice in business ads. Apparently the Bureau doesn't think people are smart enough to check the price disclaimers and so the Bureau has indicated with this, that they should not be used again, ever!
That is Corcoran's column, he writes the column with footnotes after each cogent point in the "ad," forcing the reader to the fine print underneath. The whole thing is riotous, but I found the first "note" the funniest.
He writes about the purpose of the Competition Bureau to keep the Canadian economy competitive.(1) The footnote disclaimer is:
"1. Competition Bureau promises and commitments are limited to certain sectors of the economy and may not apply to you as a consumer or corporation. The Bureau's claims to be fearless champion of competition are invalid for regulated industries, government monopolies, liquor boards, electricity pricing, industries under foreign and national ownership limits and restrictions, farm marketing boards, chickens, eggs, milk, ethanol, advertising by political parties, governments and political institutions, subsidies that create uncompetitive advantages for individual companies or industry sectors. All of the above, and many sectors and behaviours, are technically exempt from Bureau rules and enforcement. Competition is not subject to definition and should not be seen a synonymous with free markets. Many restrictions apply. All statements and policies are subject to situational adjustment, reversals, and arbitrariness. But the pay is good."
No doubt!       

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