01/04/2018 15:25 EST | Updated 01/04/2018 15:53 EST

Canada Bread Price-Fixing Scandal: Derek Nepinak Files $1B Class-Action Lawsuit Against Grocers

The alleged arrangement was in place for 14 years.

The Canadian Press
Former Manitoba Grand Chief Derek Nepinak has filed a lawsuit against some of Canada's major grocers.

The fallout over alleged bread price-fixing among Canada's major grocers isn't about to quiet down any time soon.

CBC News reports Derek Nepinak, the former grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, has kickstarted a $1 billion class-action lawsuit against Loblaw Companies Ltd., Metro Inc. and Sobeys, among others.

"I know majority of the Canadians, they [say], 'Well, it's a couple of cents on each loaf of bread, it doesn't really matter," Norman Boudreau, Nepinak's lawyer, told the broadcaster.

"But for the poorest of the people, who are really affected by a couple of cents on the loaf of bread, that is significant."

According to the Winnipeg Free Press, a statement of claim filed on Dec. 29 alleges the companies conspired to raise commercial bread prices and behaved in "in a willful, wanton and reckless manner." None of the claims have been proven in court.

Loblaw got protection for informing watchdog

The controversy began in December after Loblaw and its parent firm George Weston Ltd. revealed that they had alerted the Competition Bureau about an industry-wide bread price-fixing arrangement that took place from 2001 to 2015.

The bureau's investigation into the alleged scheme included at least seven companies.

In return for their co-operation with the watchdog, Loblaw and Weston Ltd. said they would be shielded from any potential criminal charges. Loblaw later announced it would be offering Canadians affected by the issue $25 gift cards — a "meaningful amount" it said it hopes will show a commitment to customer trust.

Nepinak's lawsuit isn't the first. An Ontario activist launched a $1-billion class-action lawsuit just two days after the company made the announcement. Both lawsuits still need to be certified by a judge.

With files from The Canadian Press