The president of Sobeys supermarket chain has written to Galen Weston, head of Loblaws and Weston Bread, demanding an apology for saying there was a 14-year industry-wide price-fixing scheme for bread.
Michael Medline, chief executive officer of Sobeys, accused Weston of taking "the opportunity to throw so many other retailers under the bus with you. … To state that there was an 'industry-wide price-fixing arrangement' was unfair, unsubstantiated, and quite possibly defamatory.
"You presented it as a statement of fact, when you knew or should have known that your accusation could mislead the Canadian public; you more than implied that the 'court filings' contain more substance than they actually do."
The Globe and Mail says Medline's broadside against Weston underscores the fissures emerging in the grocery sector even as the price-fixing inquiry raises questions among consumers about food retailers' pricing and reputation.
Loblaw spokesman Kevin Groh said on Thursday: "We stand by our statements."
In its Tuesday statement, Loblaw didn't name any rivals.
Executives at Metro Inc. – the country's third-ranking grocer, which is also alleged to have participated in the price-fixing – echoed Mr. Medline's sense of outrage at Loblaw for implicating rivals in the scheme.
The fourth retailer that has been asked to open its books to the Bureau of Competition Policy is Giant Tiger.
The Bureau is also looking into the books of Canada Bread Inc.
The Bureau ought to also look into the egg industry where there is a court decision in a dispute between two egg grading businesses that describes a price-fixing arrangement.
There are also e-mails that are sealed in another ongoing court action that describe price-fixing.