The Government has asked the Commerce Commission to take account of the exceptional circumstances created by COVID-19 when monitoring business behaviour in coming weeks.
“The purpose of my request to the Commerce Commission is to make sure businesses can work together in ways that will allow them to provide things like grocery products and other essential goods and services to New Zealanders in a fair and equitable way,” Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Kris Faafoi said.
“I have written to the Commerce Commission requesting it to be more flexible than it might be in normal times around allowing businesses to work together, share resources, or take other cooperative measures to ensure New Zealanders have access to the products and services they need as we respond to COVID-19,” Minister Faafoi said.
“The Government is aware that, as a result of COVID-19, sectors like supermarkets and telecommunications companies may need to work in a more collaborative way than the Commerce Commission would normally be comfortable with.
“”Now is not the time for strict competition rules to get in the way of common sense and legitimate collaboration as business responds to COVID-19,” Kris Faafoi said.
The Minister made clear that this did not mean the Government would tolerate unscrupulous behaviour where COVID-19 was used as an excuse for non-essential collusion or anti-competitive business practices, such as price fixing.
“This should also not be seen as some sort of licence for price gouging or hoarding. The Government and the public would take an extremely dim view of that,” Mr Faafoi said.
“I have faith that New Zealand’s supermarkets and other essential services, as well as New Zealand consumers, will act responsibly and with the best interests of their fellow New Zealanders in mind during these extraordinary times.
In issuing the Government policy statement, Minister Faafoi emphasised that the statement did not override the Commerce Commission’s statutory powers or independence.