The Commerce Commission is well positioned to deliver on its strategy, its priorities and its vision, Commission Chairman Mark Berry says.
Writing in the annual report of the Commission for the year to 30 June 2017, Dr Berry says 30 years on from the Fair Trading Act 1986, the Commission has delivered outcomes designed to ensure "fair trading" and make New Zealanders better off.
"In protecting consumers, we have seen a tangible increase in the number of cases going to court over the past two years, filing 38 cases in court under the Fair Trading and Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Acts. This compares with 10 prosecutions filed in the two years before that," he says.
"Much of this litigation work has stemmed from our focus on mobile traders, more commonly known as 'truck shops'. We have now prosecuted 13 truck shop operators, leading to fines totalling nearly $900,000 to date, with one individual also being imprisoned, a first in a Commission case."
Dr Berry says the Commission's merger and authorisation work is a key part of its competition law activity, and is demand-driven.
"Over the last year we have faced particularly high demands, with a number of major complex merger cases. These cases, especially Vodafone/Sky and NZME/Fairfax, have been among the most challenging we have ever had. We declined both applications as we were not able to exclude the real chance that they would substantially lessen competition in affected markets."
The input methodologies (IM) regime reached a new point of maturity and certainty following the IM review in 2016, Dr Berry says. IMs must be reviewed every seven years and are the upfront rules, requirements and processes that apply to regulation under Part 4 of the Commerce Act.
"We were pleased that the IMs needed little modification, giving a greater certainty for all involved. The regime is now bedded in, providing increased stability."
Dr Berry says retail telecommunications will be a cross-business focus area for the Commission in 2018, with the aim of improving the consumer experience by increasing trader compliance and providing consumers with more information.
"Other focus areas include responsible lending, country of origin and claims about product characteristics, a reviwe of our merger processes and work on Powerco's customised price-quality path application. We also want to improve our understanding of investment levels and associated incentives in the electricity lines sector, as well as providing data in a more usable format for stakeholders. Implementing the Government's proposed changes to the Telecommunications Act ... is also a priority for us."