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The Commerce Commission is a New Zealand government agency charged with enforcing legislation that promotes competition in the country's markets and prohibits misleading and deceptive conduct by traders. The Commission also enforces pieces of legislation specific to the telecommunications, dairy and electricity industries.
In ensuring compliance with the legislation it enforces, the Commission undertakes investigation and where appropriate takes court action; considers applications for authorisation in relation to anti-competitive behaviour and mergers; and makes regulatory decisions relating to access to telecommunications networks and assessing compliance with performance thresholds by electricity lines businesses.
Commerce Act 1986
The Commerce Commission was established by the Commerce Act 1986. The purpose of the act is to promote competition in New Zealand's market economy. It prohibits conducts that restricts competition (restrictive trade practices) and the purchase of a business's shares or assets if that purchase leads to a substantial lessening of competition in the market.
Fair Trading Act 1986
The Fair Trading Act 1986 was developed with the Commerce Act to encourage competition and to protect consumers from misleading and deceptive conduct and unfair trading practices. The Act applies to all aspects of the promotion and sale of goods and services – from advertising and pricing to sales techniques and finance agreements.
The Act also applies to pyramid schemes, and provides for consumer information standards covering country of origin (clothing and footwear labelling, fibre content labelling, care labelling and supplier information notices relating to motor vehicles. The Commission also enforces six product safety standards relating to baby walkers, pedal bicycles, flammability of children’s night clothes, cigarette lighters, household cots and toys for children aged up to three years.
Electricity Industry Reform Act 1998
The Commission has an enforcement role under the Electricity Industry Reform Act 1998. The Act prohibits cross involvement between electricity lines businesses with either electricity retail or generation activities.
Dairy Industry Restructuring Act 2001
The Commission has both enforcement and adjudication roles under the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act 2001. The Act provides for the Commission to undertake enforcement action and requires the Commission to issue determinations to resolve disputes between Fonterra and other parties.
Telecommunications Act 2001
The Telecommunications Act 2001 regulates the supply of telecommunications services in New Zealand. It requires the Commission to make determinations in respect of designated access and specified services and to undertake costing and monitoring activities relating to the Telecommunications Service Obligations.
Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act 2003
The Commission assumed responsibility for enforcing the major provisions of the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act 2003 on 1 April 2005. This Act repealed the Credit Contracts Act 1981 and the Hire Purchase Act 1971, placing obligations on creditors with respect to disclosure requirements; calculation of fees, charges and interest; and oppressive conduct. It also enables consumers to seek reasonable changes to credit contracts on the grounds of unforeseen hardship. The part of the Act which relates to oppressive contracts known as buy-back transactions was enacted on 14 October 2003 and was already enforced by the Commission prior to April 2005.
Cartel leniency policy
The Commission has a cartel leniency policy to assist in the investigation of anti-competitive arrangements between competitors that are often secret and difficult to detect. The Commission wishes to encourage those involved in cartel conduct to report the cartel to the Commission. The Commission will grant immunity from Commission-initiated proceedings to the first person involved in a cartel to come forward with information and formally apply for leniency, provided they co-operate fully with the Commission in its investigation and prosecution of the cartel.
The leniency policy applies to arrangements between competitors which substantially lessen competition. It does not include conduct which amounts to a company taking advantage of a substantial degree of market power.
Commission members are appointed for their knowledge of, and experience in, areas relevant to the Commission’s interests. The Commission comprises a chair and deputy chair, and up to three members. The Telecommunications Act created the position of Telecommunications Commissioner. Associate members and up to two cease and desist members may also be appointed.
The current members are:
Dr Mark Berry - Chair
Dr Ross Patterson - Telecommunications Commissioner
Anita Mazzoleni - Commissioner
Susan Begg - Commissioner
Peter JM Taylor - Commissioner
Donal Curtin - Commissioner
Patrick Duignan - Commissioner
Gowan Pickering - Associate Commissioner
David Caygill - Associate Commissioner
Helen Cull QC - Cease and Desist Commissioner
Sir Ian Barker QC - Cease and Desist Commissioner
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