Judge rules bread price-fixing case’s ‘Person X’ to remain anonymous

TORONTO — An unidentified person named in court documents in connection to an alleged bread price-fixing scheme between retailers and baked-goods suppliers has won the right to retain privacy.

The decision from Superior Court Judge Lynn Ratushny follows arguments made by a media consortium in late April to unseal the redacted paragraphs of a Competition Bureau affidavit in the case that was made partially public in January.

The affidavit formed the basis for four search warrants carried out by Competition Bureau investigators last year at the head offices of suppliers Canada Bread and Weston Bakeries and the retailers Loblaw, Sobeys, Metro, Walmart and Giant Tiger.

Lawyer Scott Fenton, who represented a former Canada Bread employee named in the redacted portions and known to the public as “Person X,” argued that without revealing the identity of Person X, the public would still have “a full, robust understanding of the informational basis for the search warrant … (and) prevent prejudice to (Person X) as an innocent person.” Fenton argued that his client maintains innocence, and noted no charges have been filed in the case.

The judge agreed.

“I agree the applicant is properly characterized under (a section of Canada’s Criminal Code) as an ‘innocent person,’ claiming that its interests would be prejudiced by the disclosure of its identity,” Ratushny wrote in her decision, released Wednesday.

“The applicant was not searched as a result of the search warrants. The applicant was an employee of Canada Bread for a small fraction of time of the alleged illegal activity. The applicant is implicated in the alleged price-fixing by one person’s remembrance of one conversation that occurred over a decade earlier. That remembrance remains untested. No charges have been laid. The investigation is ongoing and in its early stages. The applicant’s name has not been made public. The presumption of innocence prevails.”

The court documents unsealed in February alleged Canada Bread and Weston, the country’s top two bread producers, participated in a price-fixing scheme with major grocery retailers including Loblaw, Walmart, Sobeys, Metro and Giant Tiger that inflated the price of bread by at least $1.50 between 2001 and 2015 and could have stretched as far as 2017.

The Competition Bureau investigation began in March 2015 after whistleblowers at Weston and Loblaw approached the federal department in order to disclose their participation in the alleged scheme.

Loblaw and George Weston were granted immunity from prosecution after reporting the alleged collusion to federal authorities. Sobeys, Metro and Giant Tiger have all denied participating in the alleged scheme and Walmart Canada has declined comment, citing the ongoing Competition Bureau investigation.

• Email: hshaw@nationalpost.com | Twitter:

Walmart’s new personal shopping service Jetblack launches in New York

Walmart’s tech incubator is out with its first experiment. The incubator, known as Store No. 8, just launched Jetblack, a concierge-style service for requesting stuff and getting it really quick. During its pilot period, the project was known as Code Eight.

To shop with Jetblack, first you need an invite. Right now the service is limited to some customers in Manhattan and Brooklyn who are part of an eight month pilot program restricted to buildings with a doorman, though that will soon expand and a waitlist is available now. The service is $50 a month — considerably less than some adjacent competitors while considerably more than Amazon Prime — and promises same-day delivery.

While concierge services like Hello Alfred position themselves as high-end options for people wishing to live more serene lives, Jetblack is focusing on “time-strapped urban parents” seeking “more efficient ways to shop for themselves and their families.” To request something, Jetblack members send a text message and will receive product recommendations sent back in text. Those recommendations are culled from Walmart and Jet.com but also from specialty retailers locally.

That means any product request is fair game and “sourcing a specific beauty cream from a member’s favorite local boutique, curating custom Easter baskets and delivering them once the kids are asleep and rushing beach essentials to a family on vacation” are all within the realm of Jetblack fulfillments.

“Consumers are looking for more efficient ways to shop for themselves and their families without having to compromise on product quality,” said Jetblack co-founder and CEO Jenny Fleiss, formerly of Rent the Runway.

“With Jetblack, we have created an entirely new concept that enables consumers to get exactly what they need through the convenience of text messaging and the freedom of a nearly unlimited product catalogue.”

It’ll be interesting to see if these kind of personal shopping services can differentiate themselves in markets already well-acquainted with same-day shipping. While what makes Jetblack’s proposition unique isn’t that clear, it’s worth noting thanks to its roots in the biggest brick-and-mortar retailer around.

Teens dump Facebook for YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat

A Pew survey of teens and the ways they use technology finds that kids have largely ditched Facebook for the visually stimulating alternatives of Snapchat, YouTube and Instagram. Nearly half said they’re online “almost constantly,” which will probably be used as a source of FUD, but really is just fine. Even teens, bless their honest little hearts, have doubts about whether social media is good or evil.

The survey is the first by Pew since 2015, and plenty has changed. The one that has driven the most change seems to be the ubiquity and power of smartphones, which 95 percent of respondents said they had access to. Fewer, especially among lower income families, had laptops and desktops.

This mobile-native cohort has opted for mobile-native content and apps, which means highly visual and easily browsable. That’s much more the style on the top three apps: YouTube takes first place with 85 percent reporting they use it, then Instagram at 72 percent, and Snapchat at 69.

Facebook, at 51 percent, is a far cry from the 71 percent who used it back in 2015, when it was top of the heap by far. Interestingly, the 51 percent average is not representative of any of the income groups polled; 36 percent of higher income households used it, while 70 percent of teens from lower income households did.

What could account for this divergence? The latest and greatest hardware isn’t required to run the top three apps, nor (necessarily) an expensive data plan. With no data to go on from the surveys and no teens nearby to ask, I’ll leave this to the professionals to look into. No doubt Facebook will be interested to learn this — though who am I kidding, it probably knows already. (There’s even a teen tutorial.)

Twice as many teens reported being “online constantly,” but really, it’s hard to say when any of us is truly “offline.” Teens aren’t literally looking at their phones all day, much as that may seem to be the case, but they — and the rest of us — are rarely more than a second or two away from checking messages, looking something up and so on. I’m surprised the “constantly” number isn’t higher, honestly.

Gaming is still dominated by males, almost all of whom play in some fashion, but 83 percent of teen girls also said they gamed, so the gap is closing.

When asked whether social media had a positive or negative effect, teens were split. They valued it for connecting with friends and family, finding news and information and meeting new people. But they decried its use in bullying and spreading rumors, its complicated effect on in-person relationships and how it distracts from and distorts real life.

Here are some quotes from real teens demonstrating real insight.

Those who feel it has an overall positive effect:

  • “I feel that social media can make people my age feel less lonely or alone. It creates a space where you can interact with people.”
  • “My mom had to get a ride to the library to get what I have in my hand all the time. She reminds me of that a lot.”
  • “We can connect easier with people from different places and we are more likely to ask for help through social media which can save people.”
  • “It has given many kids my age an outlet to express their opinions and emotions, and connect with people who feel the same way.”

And those who feel it’s negative:

  • “People can say whatever they want with anonymity and I think that has a negative impact.”
  • “Gives people a bigger audience to speak and teach hate and belittle each other.”
  • “It makes it harder for people to socialize in real life, because they become accustomed to not interacting with people in person.”
  • “Because teens are killing people all because of the things they see on social media or because of the things that happened on social media.”

That last one is scary.

You can read the rest of the report and scrutinize Pew’s methodology here.

Why now is the time to join Startup Alley at Disrupt SF

TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2018 is coming to Moscone West on September 5-7, and this year will be twice as big and better than ever. We’re looking for startups to be a part of our massive menagerie of innovation, Startup Alley. If you’ve never been to a Disrupt, Startup Alley is where hundreds of early-stage companies (which are pre-series A although, we do make some exceptions) showcase their talent and technology to attendees, investors and members of the press. This year, we’re expecting more than 1,200 startups to be in attendance.

Plus, we have some contests and giveaways just for those who sign up for a Startup Alley Exhibitor Package— yup, you have a chance to snag some free stuff! Who doesn’t want in on that?!

All you have to do is buy a Startup Alley Exhibitor Package for $1,995, and you might get one (or more!) of these opportunities:

  • All startups who purchase a Startup Alley Exhibitor Package will be entered into a drawing to win 2 VIP Disrupt SF dinner tickets; a rare chance to mingle with TechCrunch editors, investors and other tech enthusiasts
  • One startup from Startup Alley will be selected at random every week leading up to Disrupt SF to be featured on our website and in an email as the “Startup Alley Spotlight of the Week”
  • 25 startups from Startup Alley will be selected at random every month leading up to Disrupt to have a 60-second flash pitch on the Showcase Stage (that’s 75 startups who get to pitch!)

These incentives are available for Startup Alley Exhibitor Package purchases right now — remember, all you have to do is buy a table (and you get THREE Founder passes to the full conference if you buy before July 25), and you could walk away from Disrupt with some shiny new connections, exposure and more! But don’t take our word for it — the CEO of Testcard.com, Luke Heron said, “If you’re a startup or an entrepreneur, exhibiting at Disrupt is a no-brainer.” Even Vlad Larin of Zeroqode told us that “TechCrunch Disrupt was a massively positive experience. It gave us the chance to show our technology to the world and have meaningful conversations with investors, accelerators, incubators, solo founders and developers.”

So, what are you waiting for? Secure your table today.