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Suncor Energy Products Inc. pleaded guilty Friday to illegally fixing gasoline prices at its pumps in Belleville, Ont., five years ago, and was sentenced to pay a $500,000 fine.

The Calgary-based energy giant is the latest company to have its reputation tarnished by an investigation by federal Competition Bureau for price-fixing at the gas pumps in Eastern Ontario.

Last month, Canadian Tire Corp., Pioneer Energy LP and Mr. Gas also pleaded guilty to price fixing in nearby Kingston and Brockville, Ont., facing $2-million in fines.

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In the latest case, the Competition Bureau says Suncor pleaded guilty to fixing the price of gasoline from May to November, 2007, in Belleville.

"We are committed to pursuing those who engage in anti-competitive behaviour that harms Canadian businesses and consumers," Melanie Aitken, the Commissioner of Competition, said in a press release. "Illegal agreements between competitors to fix prices deny consumers the benefits of competitive prices and choice."

Suncor, also known as Sunoco, said in press statement issued Friday that it had co-operated with investigators and consented to the fine for the violations, which were "a result of certain isolated business communications involving its Sunoco branded gas stations."

The bureau probe looked into communications between Sunoco and a representative with Pioneer, with whom Sunoco had a retail joint venture operated by Pioneer, Suncor says.

According to Suncor, the bureau found that five times between May and November, 2007, representatives with Sunoco and Pioneer "exchanged information relating to the Belleville area that went beyond the exchange of information the Bureau considered acceptable within the context of the joint venture."

Suncor says it immediately ensured no more conversations took place, and engaged in new competition training for its staff.

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