Watchdog turns focus to telco complaints
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.