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Regulator investigating Sears Canada liquidation sale prices: monitor

Last Updated Nov 23, 2017 at 9:00 pm EST

A store closing sign is shown on a Sears store at the Oakville Place mall in Oakville, Ont., west of Toronto, Thursday, Nov.23, 2017. The Competition Bureau is investigating allegations that prices on some merchandise was marked up ahead of the liquidation sales at Sears Canada that began last month, the court-appointed monitor overseeing the retailer says. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Richard Buchan

TORONTO – The Competition Bureau is investigating allegations that prices on some merchandise were marked up ahead of the liquidation sales at Sears Canada that began last month, the court-appointed monitor overseeing the retailer says.

The monitor’s seventh report to Ontario Superior Court says the federal competition watchdog sent letters on Nov. 8 to the liquidators inquiring about the allegations that certain merchandise was marked up.

A Competition Bureau spokeswoman said Thursday that the agency can’t comment or confirm any ongoing investigation.

But under federal law, she wrote in an email, consumers should not be misled by references to inflated regular prices and “doesn’t make any distinctions between retailers and liquidators or the nature of the promotional event.”

For example, Amazon.com.ca Inc. agreed in January to pay a $1 million penalty and $100,000 towards costs after the bureau determined the online retailer hadn’t verified the accuracy of “list price” information provided by its suppliers.

The bureau also works to achieve “voluntary” compliance with the act “through various types of communication to businesses or individuals in specific matters before, during and/or following an investigation.”

A spokesman for Sears Canada told The Canadian Press that the company didn’t have a comment about a CBC News report on Thursday that said it had spoken with a Sears Canada employee who said he was ordered to mark up prices shortly after liquidation sales began on Oct. 19.

A call and emails to one of the Sears Canada liquidators were not answered Thursday.

Sears Canada has been under court protection since June and began the process of liquidating its remaining stores in October after failing to find a buyer.

After the sales began, several customers posted pictures to social media suggesting prices had been raised.

The joint-venture group running the liquidation includes Hilco Global, Gordon Brothers, Tiger Capital Group and Great American Group.