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Commission releases 2017/18 priorities

20 July 2017

The Commerce Commission have released its priority focus areas for the upcoming year publicly for the first time.

Speaking at the Commission’s competition and regulation conference, Competition Matters 2017, in Wellington today, Chairman Dr Mark Berry said there are a number of areas the Commission will always regard as a priority due to the potential significant impact on consumers, business or markets in New Zealand.

These include cases that involve significant harm to consumers or the potential for significant harm such as product safety and construction cases. They also include cartel and anti-competitive mergers and conduct because of the potential impact on markets and the economy as a whole.

“In addition to these enduring priorities we have identified a number of priority focus areas for the 2017/18 year.  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, so retail telecommunications will be an organisation-wide priority focus area for us,” Dr Berry said.

“In our consumer area we will focus on responsible lending (including online lending) and credence claims. Despite the number of investigations and cases we have taken, our intelligence suggests some lenders are still failing to comply with responsible lending principles. By failing to comply these lenders are not only breaching the law, they are potentially putting people at risk of hardship. When it comes to credence, it is difficult for consumers to verify claims made about a product, and therefore easy for them to be misled. In particular, we will be paying attention to food products and country of origin claims.

“In the last year we have had a number of significant cartel cases including in the real estate and livestock industries resulting in fines of more than $21 million to date. We have also declined a number of merger applications because of the potential effects on competition in New Zealand had the mergers proceeded. We will continue to prioritise cases where anti-competitive conduct or merger activity could substantially lessen competition and impact businesses and consumers. We will also look at ways to improve efficiency and transparency in our merger clearance process.

“As well as incentivising regulated businesses to deliver strong, sustainable and efficient infrastructure, one of our goals in regulation is to ensure accurate information is available for consumers and businesses and that they are empowered to act on it. Our priority focus areas are intended to further those goals. We will undertake work to gain a greater understanding about the performance of infrastructure industries and share that knowledge with stakeholders. We will also ensure we provide more accessible information about the operation of these industries to a wider audience.

“Powerco’s application for a customised price-path to increase expenditure to replace or upgrade ageing assets will be a significant piece of work for us this year. We intend to improve confidence in the process for future applicants by providing a proportionate, efficient and timely response to Powerco’s proposal in a way that delivers maximum value for New Zealanders.”

The Commission’s final priority focus area is supporting the review of the Telecommunications Act, which is likely to introduce a new regime the Commission will be required to implement.

A document outlining the priorities and Dr Berry’s full speech can be found on the Commission’s website.

Background

The Commission released its new organisational strategy last year and as part of that made the commitment to publish its priorities annually. The strategy can be found on the Commission’s website.