New Zealand suppliers are
fearful of speaking to the Commerce Commission about
anti-competitive behaviour in case they are blacklisted
across the Tasman, Labour MP Shane Jones has claimed in
Mr Jones last week claimed in Parliament that supermarket
chain Countdown was demanding retrospective payments from
local suppliers for historic losses on the sale of their
products or face having their goods removed from the
supermarket chain's shelves.
The commission is assessing the complaint it received from Mr
Jones shortly after he first made his allegations and is
allowing suppliers to come forward anonymously with
information as it considers launching a formal inquiry .
Again under the cover of parliamentary privilege this
afternoon, Mr Jones asked Commerce Minister Craig Foss
whether he was "concerned that despite anonymity... New
Zealand based suppliers are fearful that what they tell the
regulator could be passed on to [Countdown parent company]
the Australian Woolworths supermarket chain and they could
end up blacklisted off Australian supermarket shelves".
Mr Foss pointed to the commission's press release last week
"reinforcing the confidential nature of any complaint".
"The Commerce Commission, as part of their normal business,
are dealing with sensitive affairs at all times and as in
their press released treat matters in confidence and very
Mr Jones' questions followed his successful bid this
afternoon to have Parliament authorise the public release of
his letter of complaint to the commission. The letter was
tabled in Parliament last week but Clerk of the House Mary
Harris deemed the risk of defamation action against her
office too great if she was to release it more widely than
just to MPs.
NZ First Leader Winston Peters moved that the House order the
Clerk of the House release the letter, a motion that was
passed without opposition.
The motion gives Mr Jones' letter the protection of
parliamentary privilege meaning the media can now report on
its contents, which are in line with the the allegations Mr
Jones made in the House last week.
The Commerce Commission yesterday confirmed that in addition
to Mr Jones' letter, it had now received "a small number of
complaints" from suppliers alleging anti-competitive
behaviour by Countdown.
Prime Minister John Key yesterday said his Government had
encouraged the commission to begin a formal inquiry.
"My view is it's very healthy to have the inquiry. Let's have
a look and see what comes out of it."
A Countdown spokeswoman yesterday said it would "participate
fully with any inquiry from the Commerce Commission".
The company would have to see the detail of the concerns
raised by suppliers before commenting.
- By Adam Bennett of
the New Zealand Herald