Countdown competitor The Mad Butcher has made fresh
allegations of bullying against the Australian-owned
It comes after Labour MP Shane Jones alleged Countdown owner
Progressive Enterprises had blackmailed suppliers into making
retrospective payments to keep products on shelves.
The Commerce Commission is currently investigating
allegations of anti-competitive conduct.
Speaking on TV3's The Nation today, Mad Butcher chief
executive Michael Morton made further allegations of
suppliers being pressured by Countdown.
Asked whether suppliers were being pressured to not deal with
his company, Mr Morton said the matter was before the
"But I think the New Zealand consumers should make that
decision for themselves."
When pressed, Mr Morton said he believed the supply chain was
"Any company that controls 50 per cent of the market in New
Zealand has a lot of weight. And if they choose to throw that
weight around in an un-New Zealand-type fashion, then I
believe that suppliers would definitely be scared to upset
Mr Morton was not a supplier to Countdown himself.
"But I've definitely had comments from suppliers where that
has been brought up to me, that they had pressure put on
There was "a culture of bullying within the whole
organisation", Mr Morton said.
The Mad Butcher got "smashed with lawyers' letters" and
complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority when the
company engaged in comparative advertising claiming its
products were cheaper.
"They come down like a sledgehammer with lawyers letters," he
"They're being bullies because they believe that they're big
and they're powerful, they can send us all these letters,
they have lawyers on staff, they have some of the biggest law
firms in New Zealand working for them, and they think they
can tie you up with that litigation.
"I'm trying to stand up for the little guys here of New
Zealand, and say, 'Listen New Zealanders, you should support
the little guys here in New Zealand."'
Local Government NZ president and Hastings Mayor Lawrence
Yule said supermarkets were also fighting against councils'
attempts to limit the hours alcohol could be sold.
He told TV3's The Nation that councils wanted to adopt 9am to
9pm hours, but the default position from supermarkets was for
7am to 11pm.
Countdown in particular had appealed on the basis it wanted
supermarkets open until 11pm, and supermarkets had even
applied for extended hours in areas like Hauraki where
supermarkets were not open after 9pm.
"I think they need to be more cognisant of what local people
want," Mr Yule said.
"These are local policies - they're meant to be designed by
local communities, that's effectively what the government
said - and they've got to recognise that in many cases, a lot
of communities around New Zealand are concerned about
alcohol-related issues and the hours of operation."
Eighteen local councils were putting through new alcohol
policies under the new law. Those policies were subject to
more than 60 appeals.
Mr Yule said councils were considering pooling funds to fight
the legal battles. The cost of Hauraki's appeal alone was
Countdown declined to appear on The Nation but in a
statement, it denied any anti-competitive behaviour and said
it was cooperating with the Commerce Commission.
The company said The Mad Butcher was a direct competitor but
was welcome to raise concerns about suppliers directly.
On the alcohol issue, the company said it had worked with
local councils for months. It had appealed only 13 council
plans, which was its legal right. The appeals would help to
clarify the new law.