Welcome from Brent Alderton – August 2017

Welcome to this edition of Bulletin.

Our Competition Matters conference held at Te Papa last month was a fantastic event. The conference was sold out well in advance and attracted a wide variety of delegates. You can read more about the conference in this edition of Bulletin, but I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all our speakers, organisers and delegates for their contribution to making the conference such a success.

At the conference we released our priority focus areas for the upcoming year publicly for the first time. In addition to a number of areas the Commission will always regard as a priority due to the potential significant impact, we have identified a number of priority focus areas for the 2017/18 year. This includes a priority focus area of retail telecommunications. Almost every New Zealander uses a mobile or fixed-line phone and broadband, meaning the telecommunications sector has the potential to have a significant impact on consumers. Despite undertaking a lot of work in the sector it continues to generate a high level of complaints from consumers. This combined with our concerns about service quality indicates there is still work to be done. Other priority focus areas include responsible lending, credence claims, improving efficiency and transparency in our merger clearance process and gaining a greater understanding about the performance of regulated infrastructure industries. For more details and the full list of priority focus areas, visit our website.

Earlier this month the Commerce (Cartels and Other Matters) Amendment Act was passed into law. The Commerce Act 1986 prohibits cartels as they can result in higher prices, inefficiency, and firms having a decreased incentive to innovate. However, the Amendment Act recognises that some cartel provisions can form part of collaborative agreements that have pro-competitive or benign competitive effects. The Amendment Act introduces a clearance regime so that businesses can test their proposed collaboration with the Commission before they enter into the arrangement. We now have a Competitor Collaboration Clearances section on our website with an application form. We are working through all the changes that need to be made to our guidance and website and will shortly add a register listing all applications for clearance.

With major cases that we take to court we often end up with a large volume of evidence. For the most part this is paper or electronic based which is filed at the end of the case. However, at the end of our long running series of alpaca cases against 11 companies and individuals who made false claims about alpaca, merino and cashmere products, we found ourselves with 20 duvets and 23 pairs of slippers. These items had been purchased by the Commission during the course of the investigations and the duvets each had a series of cuts in them where some of the filling had been removed for testing. Rather than disposing of them, two Commission staff members volunteered to mend all of the duvets so they could be donated to the Wellington City Mission. We also donated the slippers to the Mission who plan to give them out to those that are sleeping rough or families that need warm slippers.