Surveyors - Minimum Fees and Survey Certificates #136

Apr 01, 1989

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By Gerry Neely
B.A. LL.B.

The Corporation of Land Surveyors of the Province of British Columbia performs a valuable service for all of us and, until recently, at a price fixed by a mandatory minimum tariff. This they were able to do without fear of the Competition Act, because the Land Surveyors Act gave the Corporation power in the administration of its affairs, to set a tariff of fees.

While the provincial statute shielded the surveyors from the hot breath of the Bureau of Competition Policy, it was less successful in maintaining prices among its own members when, in 1986, the minimum fee for a survey certificate jumped from $150 to $200. This caused a degree of heartburn among purchasers, a touch of envy among other provincially unprotected professions, and a minor revolt by a few surveyors who chose to charge the lesser fee.

This breaking of ranks led to an unsuccessful action by the Corporation to muster the defaulters on the $200 line. Unsuccessful, because the Court held that while the Corporation had the power to set a tariff of fees, the provincial legislation did not give it the power to set minimum fees.

Shortly after this decision was pronounced, the Corporation found itself down love-thirty as another judge found a way to introduce into the survey practice more than price competition.

In this case, a company carried on a "computer assisted mapping and drafting service" for its clients. When the fee for a survey certificate was raised to $200, it started doing survey certificates for mortgage companies for $150. This price was attractive, and as the reputation of the Company spread, more solicitors and mortgage companies were prepared to accept its survey certificates.

The Corporation's view was that the Company was trespassing on the Corporation's turf. It brought an action in the Supreme Court of British Columbia to restrain the Company from doing an act which only a land surveyor who is a member in good standing of the Corporation can do under the provisions of the Land Surveyors Act.

The argument on behalf of the Corporation of Land Surveyors was that in preparing the survey certificate, the Company was rendering an opinion as to the legal boundaries of the lot and that such an act is the act of a land surveyor. The judge disagreed with that, saying that in preparing the survey certificates, all that the Company was doing was determining the location of the building "after identifying and locating the corners of the lot and the survey monuments."

It is likely that one or both of these cases will be appealed, having regard to the economic impact these decisions may have upon the surveyors. The conclusions reached by the judges show that special privileges which may have the effect of restraining competition, will be interpreted strictly.1

  1. Corporation of Land Surveyors of the Province of British Columbia v. Ifomap Services Incorporated and Wannamaker, SCBC, Victoria Registry 87/2291, March 22, 1989.

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