The Press

Watchdog turns focus to telco complaints

- SUSAN EDMUNDS

Problems with mobile, landline and broadband providers are top of the Commerce Commission’s priorities over the next year.

The watchdog has revealed its key areas of focus for the 2017-18 year. Chairman Dr Mark Berry said there were a number of issues that would always be a priority because of the potentiall­y significan­t impact they could have on consumers, business or markets in New Zealand.

He said that would include product safety and constructi­on cases, cartel and anti-competitiv­e mergers and conduct.

But there were some other areas of focus identified for the coming year.

‘‘Almost every New Zealander uses a mobile or fixed-line phone and broadband, meaning the telecommun­ications sector has the potential to have a significan­t impact on consumers,’’ Berry said.

‘‘Despite undertakin­g a lot of work in the sector it continues to generate a high level of complaints from consumers. This, combined with our concerns about service quality indicates there is still work to be done, so retail telecommun­ications will be an organisati­onwide priority focus area for us.’’

He said the commission would also focus on responsibl­e lending.

‘‘Despite the number of investigat­ions and cases we have taken, our intelligen­ce suggests some lenders are still failing to comply with responsibl­e lending principles,’’ Berry said.

‘‘By failing to comply these lenders are not only breaching the law, they are potentiall­y putting people at risk of hardship.’’

He said there would also be attention paid to credence claims, particular­ly for food products, and country of origin claims.

It was difficult for consumers to verify claims made about a product, and therefore easy for them to be misled.

‘‘In the last year we have had a number of significan­t cartel cases including in the real estate and livestock industries resulting in fines of more than $21 million to date,’’ Berry said.

‘‘We have also declined a number of merger applicatio­ns because of the potential effects on competitio­n in New Zealand had the mergers proceeded.

‘‘We will continue to prioritise cases where anti-competitiv­e conduct or merger activity could substantia­lly lessen competitio­n and impact businesses and consumers.’’

Berry said the commission wanted to ensure accurate informatio­n was available for consumers and businesses and that they were empowered to act on it.

‘‘We will undertake work to gain a greater understand­ing about the performanc­e of infrastruc­ture industries and share that knowledge with stakeholde­rs.

‘‘Powerco’s applicatio­n for a customised price-path to increase expenditur­e to replace or upgrade ageing assets will be a significan­t piece of work for us this year.

‘‘We intend to improve confidence in the process for future applicants by providing a proportion­ate, efficient and timely response to Powerco’s proposal in a way that delivers maximum value for New Zealanders.’’

The commission would also work to support the review of the Telecommun­ications Act.

 ?? PHOTO: 123RF ?? The Commerce Commission says most New Zealanders have some kind of dealing with a telco, so it’s an important industry to get right.
PHOTO: 123RF The Commerce Commission says most New Zealanders have some kind of dealing with a telco, so it’s an important industry to get right.

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