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    Alleged Canadian Gas Cartel Faces Class Action Lawsuit

    Esso, Ultramar, Irving Oil and nine distributors accused of conspiring to raise prices.

    QUEBEC -- The Superior Court of Quebec authorized a class action lawsuit against an alleged gas cartel that included oil companies Esso, Ultramar and Irving Oil, and existed in the Sherbrooke, Magog, Victoriaville and Thetford Mines regions of Quebec between Jan. 1, 2002, and June 30, 2006, the Sherbrooke Record reported.

    Defendants in the lawsuit include the three oil companies, nine gas distribution companies, and 19 individuals. Distributors implicated are: Provigo Distribution, Pétroles Therrien, La Coop Fédérée, Dépan-Escompte Couche-Tard, Alimentation Couche-Tard, Pétroles Global, Pétroles Cardin, Philippe Gosselin and associates, and Olco.

    The lawsuit, which is being handled by Karine St-Louis of the Paquette Gadler corporate law firm, comes on the heels of a Competition Bureau of Canada investigation that revealed the existence of a gas cartel in the region in the mid-2000s, the report stated.

    The bureau's investigation -- which used several investigative tools, such as wiretaps and searches -- led to criminal charges being laid against certain gas companies, local distributors, and a number of individuals. The bureau charges stated that 54 convenience stores and gas stations in Sherbrooke, 14 in Magog, 23 in Victoriaville, and 21 in Thetford Mines, along with their respective distributors, conspired together to raise gas prices.

    Four of the companies, and a number of the individuals named in the newly authorized class action lawsuit pled guilty last year to the bureau charges; collectively paying more than $2 million in settlements, according to the newspaper.

    Now, the class action suit is seeking $7.5 million, plus interest, to the group of affected consumers. It is also asking that each individual receive an additional $500 for "trouble, headache and inconvenience," and another $1,000 for punitive damages.

    It's estimated more than 240,000 people were affected by this cartel and are eligible to take part in the suit. Anyone who filled their gas tank in the named areas during the period could potentially receive $1,500-plus in compensation, the report stated.

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