The Commerce Commission has confirmed that whistleblowers who
come forward with information about alleged unfair business
practices by supermarket giant Countdown can do so under
cover of anonymity.
The commission is currently mulling whether to launch a
formal inquiry into Labour MP Shane Jones' allegations that
Countdown pressured suppliers into making payments or else
face having their products pulled from its shelves.
Mr Jones, the Food and Grocery Council and Prime Minister
John Key have all called for suppliers who come forward with
information to be able to do so anonymously.
This afternoon the commission said it would grant them that
"The commission will not disclose the identity and/or
information unless consent is given or the commission is
required to by law" it said in a statement.
"If confidentiality is a concern then it should be raised
when first contact is made with the commission."
Mr Key this morning underlined his support for a formal
investigation, saying that while he had never seen anything
to demonstrate that Countdown was performing or acting
improperly, "for everybody, Countdown themselves and New
Zealand consumers and for New Zealand workers we need to
understand what's gone on".
Meanwhile, as a campaign to boycott Countdown supermarkets
gathers pace, Mr Key warned against adopting protectionist
Tauranga man Nevan Lancaster a week ago started a Facebook
page "Boycott Countdown"in response to Countdown's Australian
parent company, Woolworths Ltd, dropping New Zealand
suppliers from some of its own brand product lines in
Australia in favour of local suppliers.
The number of "likes" leapt from 1000 on Wednesday to 8117 by
this afternoon following Mr Jones' allegations.
Mr Lancaster wants people to stop shopping at Countdown and
instead give their grocery dollar to locally-owned producers
"Basically if our goods are not good enough to be sold to
Australians, then the company is not good enough to sell to
us," Mr Lancaster said.
This morning Mr Key said that with New Zealand so reliant on
food exports, "if we get too protectionist in New Zealand,
while it might feel good in the very short term, in the long
term we run the risk that there's retaliatory action around
the world and we don't benefit from that at all".