by Peter Moffatt of Gardiner Roberts LLP
Ontario’s Bulk Sales Act poses a challenge to investors who want to acquire an Ontario business. An investor who is considering the acquisition of a business based in Ontario, Canada, and the attorneys who are advising such an investor, need to be aware of the application of Ontario’s Bulk Sales Act,R.S.O. 1990, c. B.14 (BSA).
Bulk sales legislation, including the BSA, has its roots in English law and historically was common in many jurisdictions in North America. Today, Ontario is one of the few remaining jurisdictions in North America, and the only jurisdiction in Canada, which still has bulk sales legislation in force. Several jurisdictions in the US, including California, Georgia, Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia, continue to have bulk sales legislation in force, and additional jurisdictions in the US, while no longer having in force bulk sales legislation of general application, have bulk sale notification provisions embedded in their taxing statutes.
The primary reason cited for the repeal of bulk sales legislation in jurisdictions of Canada other than Ontario is, in the words of the Supreme Court of Canada, that bulk sales legislation achieves its goals “only at the cost of significant commercial inconvenience, disruption and expense”: National Trust Co. v. H&R Block Canada Inc.,  3 S.C.R. 160, at para 8 (H&R Block). The purpose of this article is to describe the types of transactions to which the BSA may apply and to provide insight into how to overcome BSA compliance issues.