The Competition Act at section 45 states:
PART VI OFFENCES IN RELATION TO COMPETITION
Conspiracies, agreements or arrangements between competitors
- 45. (1) Every person commits an offence who, with a competitor of that person with respect to a product, conspires, agrees or arranges
- (a) to fix, maintain, increase or control the price for the supply of the product;
- (b) to allocate sales, territories, customers or markets for the production or supply of the product; or
- (c) to fix, maintain, control, prevent, lessen or eliminate the production or supply of the product.
The Competition Act forbids competitors from fixing prices for their goods or services. However, it seems that lawyers are guilty offenders. This appears to be endemic between firms of all levels from the solo practitioner all the way up to the big law firms on Bay Street.
Is this fair? Are lawyers merely charging what the market dictates or is there something more sinister lurking underneath?
I suspect that a survey of lawyers’ rates would show an alarming consistency of pricing for like services by like providers.
I do not think that this issue is peculiar to the legal profession. I am sure a survey of other professions within Ontario would reflect a similar pattern. Is this the price we pay for professional self-governing associations?
Will lawyers lose the right to govern themselves as legal services become more and more inaccessible to the general public and become a commodity reserved for the wealthy? Is there a social contract between legal associations and the public? A contract that says we have the right to govern ourselves and in return we guarantee high quality legal services. Does this contract become violated when services can only be rendered to a small segment of the population, as seen by the alarming increase of self-representatives at the court?