Gasoline Price Watchdog Act
BILL NO. 67
2nd Session, 60th General Assembly
56 Elizabeth II, 2007
Private Member's Bill
Gasoline Price Watchdog Act
First Reading: December 4, 2007
Be it enacted by the Governor and Assembly as follows:
1 This Act may be cited as the Gasoline Price Watchdog Act.
2 The purpose of this Act is to
(a) ensure that retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers are accountable to the public with respect to the pricing of motor vehicle fuel;
(b) ensure reasonable and competitive prices of motor vehicle fuel within the Province; and
(c) protect employees of retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers from retaliation for having disclosed any pricing practices of the retailer, wholesaler or manufacturer that contravene this Act.
3 In this Act,
(a) "consumer" means a person who acquires motor vehicle fuel for the person's own use and not for the purpose of selling, exchanging or otherwise disposing thereof, and does not include a person who purchases motor vehicle fuel for use in a business under a written contract containing bulk purchasing provisions with volume discounts;
(b) "Gasoline Price Watchdog" means the person appointed pursuant to this Act;
(c) "manufacturer" means any person who manufactures, refines or makes motor vehicle fuel or any component of it;
(d) "Minister" means the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations;
(e) "motor vehicle" means any vehicle legally entitled to be driven on public roads, highways and streets and that operates by means of motor vehicle fuel;
(f) "motor vehicle fuel" means a liquid product, whether or not distilled or recovered from petroleum, that by itself or in mixture with other products, by combustion, develops the power required for operating internal combustion engines, and includes gasoline, diesel fuels, propane and ethanol fuels;
(g) "prescribed" means prescribed by the regulations;
(h) "retailer" means a person who keeps for sale or sells motor vehicle fuel to a consumer and includes a person who is also a wholesaler;
(i) "retailer margin" means the difference between the price at which a retailer buys motor vehicle fuel from a wholesaler and the price at which the retailer sells the motor vehicle fuel to a consumer;
(j) "retail outlet" includes every location at which a retailer sells motor vehicle fuel, whether on a permanent or temporary basis;
(k) "wholesaler" means a person who keeps for sale or sells motor vehicle fuel to a retailer, and includes a person who is also a retailer.
4 (1) Subject to Section 13, an office is hereby established to be known as the Gasoline Price Watchdog.
(2) Subject to Section 13, the Governor in Council may appoint a person to hold the office of Gasoline Price Watchdog.
(3) The qualifications, remuneration, term of appointment and replacement of the Gasoline Price Watchdog are as set out in the regulations.
(4) The duties of the Gasoline Price Watchdog are to
(a) monitor and report to the Minister on pricing practices with respect to motor vehicle fuel in the Province;
(b) conduct inquiries under this Act;
(c) receive, consider and determine the validity of complaints made under this Act about contraventions of Section 6; and
(d) carry out such other duties as may be prescribed.
5 (1) Upon order of the Minister, the Gasoline Price Watchdog shall conduct an inquiry into pricing practices in the Province with respect to motor vehicle fuel.
(2) The Minister shall specify the scope of an inquiry and it may be limited to one or more retailers, wholesalers or manufacturers.
(3) The Gasoline Price Watchdog may hold public hearings in the course of an inquiry under this Section.
(4) The Minister shall order the Gasoline Price Watchdog to conduct an inquiry under subsection (1) if the Minister receives a petition requesting an inquiry into a matter relating to the price of motor vehicle fuel and the petition is signed by at least ten thousand residents of the Province.
(5) The Gasoline Price Watchdog shall prepare a report of the results of an inquiry for the Minister who shall table the report in the Assembly.
6 No retailer, wholesaler or manufacturer of motor vehicle fuel shall dismiss, discipline, penalize or in any way coerce or intimidate an employee because the employee has, acting in good faith,
(a) complied with or sought the enforcement of this Act or the regulations;
(b) given information to an appropriate authority for the purposes of an investigation or inquiry related to the enforcement of this Act or the regulations;
(c) given evidence in a proceeding under this Act; or
(d) done a prescribed act.
7 (1) Any person may file a written complaint with the Gasoline Price Watchdog alleging that an employer has contravened Section 6.
(2) The Gasoline Price Watchdog shall inquire into any complaint received under subsection (1).
(3) Where the Gasoline Price Watchdog, after inquiring into the complaint, is satisfied that an employer has contravened Section 6, the Gasoline Price Watchdog shall make one or more of the following orders:
(a) an order directing the employer to cease doing the act or acts complained of;
(b) an order directing the employer to rectify the act or acts complained of;
(c) an order directing the employer to reinstate in employment or hire the employee, with or without compensation, or to compensate, instead of hiring or reinstatement, for loss of earnings or other employment benefits in an amount determined by the Gasoline Price Watchdog.
(4) Where an employer fails to comply with a term of an order made under subsection (3) within fourteen days of the date the order was made, the employee may file a copy of the order with the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia and the order may be enforced as though it were an order of the court.
(5) This Section must not be interpreted so as to limit any other right an employee may have under this Act, any other Act or at law to seek a remedy with respect to adverse employment action.
8 (1) Subject to Section 13, the Minister may appoint inspectors for the purpose of ensuring compliance with this Act.
(2) For the purpose of determining whether this Act is being complied with, an inspector may, without a warrant, enter and inspect places owned or operated by a retailer, wholesaler or manufacturer.
(3) The Minister may, in an appointment, restrict the inspector's powers of entry and inspection to specified places or types of places.
(4) The power to enter and inspect a place without a warrant may be exercised only during daylight hours or, in the case of a place of business, during the place's regular business hours.
(5) The power to enter and inspect a place without a warrant must not be exercised to enter and inspect a part of the place that is used as a dwelling unless reasonable notice has been given to the occupier of the dwelling.
(6) An inspector is not entitled to use force to enter and inspect a place.
(7) An inspector conducting an inspection shall produce, on request, evidence of the inspector's appointment.
(8) An inspector conducting an inspection may
(a) examine a record or other thing that is relevant to the inspection;
(b) demand the production for inspection of a document or other thing that is relevant to the inspection;
(c) remove for review and copying a record or other thing that is relevant to the inspection;
(d) in order to produce a record in readable form, use data storage, information processing or retrieval devices or systems that are normally used in carrying on business in the place; and
(e) question a person on matters relevant to the inspection.
(9) A demand that a record or other thing be produced for inspection must be in writing and must include a statement of the nature of the record or thing required.
(10) Where an inspector demands that a record or other thing be produced for inspection, the person who has custody of the record or thing shall produce it and, in the case of a record, shall on request provide any assistance that is reasonably necessary to interpret the record or to produce it in a readable form.
(11) A record or other thing that has been removed for review and copying must be
(a) made available to the person from whom it was removed, for review and copying, on request and at a time and place that are convenient for the person and for the inspector; and
(b) returned to the person within a reasonable time.
(12) A copy of a record that purports to be certified by an inspector as being a true copy of the original is admissible in evidence to the same extent as the original, and has the same evidentiary value.
(13) No person shall hinder, obstruct or interfere with an inspector conducting an inspection, refuse to answer questions on matters relevant to the inspection or provide the inspector with information, on matters relevant to the inspection, that the person knows to be false or misleading.
9 (1) Any person who contravenes Section 6 or subsection 8(13) is guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine of not more than
(a) twenty thousand dollars if the person is an individual; or
(b) two hundred and fifty thousand dollars if the person is a corporation.
(2) In addition to any penalty under subsection (1), a court may prohibit a retailer, wholesaler or manufacturer convicted of an offence referred to in subsection (1) from selling motor vehicle fuel for a period of up to three months.
10 (1) A director or officer of a corporation that engages in the sale of motor vehicle fuel has a duty to take reasonable care to prevent the corporation from contravening Section 6 or subsection 8(13).
(2) A director or officer who is subject to a duty under subsection (1) and fails to carry it out is guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine of not more than seventy-five thousand dollars.
11 A person who is convicted of an offence under Section 9 or under subsection 10(2) and who fails to pay the imposed fine is liable to imprisonment for up to twelve months.
12 (1) The Governor in Council may make regulations
(a) governing the qualifications, remuneration, term of appointment and replacement of the Gasoline Price Watchdog;
(b) respecting the process for making a petition under this Act and the requirements and qualifications of signatories to the petition;
(c) prescribing the duties of the Gasoline Price Watchdog;
(d) prescribing anything referred to in this Act as prescribed;
(e) establishing a process of mediation or arbitration for any complaint made under this Act;
(f) defining any word or expression used but not defined in this Act;
(g) respecting any matter or thing considered necessary or advisable to carry out effectively the intent purpose of this Act.
(2) A regulation may be general or specific in its application.
(3) The exercise by the Governor in Council of the authority contained in subsection (1) is regulations within the meaning of the Regulations Act.
13 The moneys required for the purpose of this Act shall be paid out of moneys appropriated by the Legislature for that purpose.
14 Chapter 11 of the Acts of 2005, the Petroleum Products Pricing Act, is repealed.
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