The Government’s legislative agenda this year features a number of proposed changes that directly impact on our role going forward.
Key reforms are slated for the Commerce, Fair Trading, Consumer Contract and Credit Finance and Telecommunications Acts, with reviews also underway into the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act and electricity pricing and consultation, on the regulation of organic food and beverages is ongoing.
This large body of legislative reform has inevitably led to us making several submissions before select committees this year. These submissions are available on our website.
Proposed Commerce Act reforms include the establishment of market studies powers, adding enforceable undertakings for use in resolving anti-competitive conduct investigations, the criminalisation of cartel conduct and strengthening the regulatory regime for airports. We support each of these amendments.
The introduction of market studies powers has been well-signalled, with this particular change initiated by the previous administration. We also support the current Government’s proposal to allow the Commission to self-initiate studies as occurs in other OECD countries, including Australia.
While we welcome being able to use enforceable undertakings to resolve investigations into anti-competitive conduct, we have submitted this should be further extended to our mergers regime. Currently, the law only allows for structural remedies (selling assets or parts of the business) in order for clearance to be granted where we have identified competition issues. Enforceable undertakings would allow us to accept behavioural remedies, such as providing third party access to key assets. We believe this would be a beneficial change to New Zealand’s merger regime.
We have long supported criminalising serious cartel conduct and have recommended that this law change should closely reflect the comparable Australian law, particularly with regard to proposed defences. In our view criminalisation has been proven internationally to be a useful tool for deterring and detecting the most serious cartel conduct.
Separate to the Commerce Act reforms, we submitted on changes to the Telecommunications Act to introduce utility-style regulation of the fibre network. We are now preparing for the significant work that will be involved to develop input methodologies, price-quality and information disclosure requirements for local fibre companies. This involves gathering information for our study into fibre services and preparing to release a paper on the regime shortly after the Bill has passed. The fibre regulation team held a workshop with industry in May, and have consulted on the funding we consider we need to implement the regime.