AS has been predicted by SupermarketNews over recent months, the Commerce Commission has reported it will take no action over the complaints regarding Countdown. The commission’s report was released this morning (Thursday) and is reprinted in full here.
Commission completes Countdown investigation
The Commerce Commission has completed its investigation into allegations of anti-competitive and intimidating behaviour by Progressive Enterprises Ltd, the operator of Countdown supermarket chain, towards their suppliers.
Based on the evidence gathered during the investigation, the Commission does not believe that Progressive has breached any of the laws it enforces and it will not be taking any action against Progressive.
Chief Executive Brent Alderton said the allegations made against Progressive, first aired in February this year, were serious and the Commission had undertaken an extensive and thorough investigation into those allegations.
“The supermarket industry is important in New Zealand, it has an impact on all New Zealanders and it is vital that it operates in a competitive way. Our role in this investigation was to assess whether Progressive’s dealings with its suppliers breached any of the laws we enforce. We do not consider that any of the conduct we investigated was unlawful and our investigation is now closed. We do not intend to take any further action.”
Mr Alderton said in total the Commission received almost 90 complaints. The investigation focused on a number of areas, including whether Progressive had engaged in any conduct that was misleading or deceptive or otherwise breached the Fair Trading Act. In addition, the investigation considered whether there was any evidence to suggest that any of Progressive’s behaviour might breach the Commerce Act.
“During the course of the investigation we obtained evidence from both Progressive and its suppliers. We don’t consider that the evidence shows that Progressive engaged in misleading or deceptive behaviour or coerced its suppliers in breach of the Fair Trading Act. Nor do we believe the evidence shows Progressive engaged in anti-competitive behaviour in breach of the Commerce Act,” Mr Alderton said.
“However, the investigation did highlight two areas where commercial parties should be reminded to take care. The first is that ambiguity in business communications should be avoided as it can lead to misunderstanding that can place you at risk of breaching the law. The second is that exchanging information about competitors’ future behaviour, or discussing supplier interactions with a competitor carries significant risks for all involved. Individuals who do so are exposing both themselves personally and their company to a potential breach of the law.”
A copy of the investigation closure report can be found at http://www.comcom.govt.nz/business-competition/competition-enforcement-responses/investigation-reports/
From the beginning of the investigation issues were raised about confidentiality for suppliers. This is a matter that the Commission takes very seriously and as a result the investigation report does not contain any information that would identify individual suppliers.