Welcome from Geoff Williamson – March 2018

Welcome to this edition of Bulletin.

Welcome to the first edition of Bulletin for 2018. It’s been a busy start to the year for the Commission across all aspects of our work.

In our consumer work, earlier this month we announced that our review of the standard terms used in pre-paid travel cards such as AT HOP Card, Snapper and Metrocard has resulted in a range of changes to make the terms fairer for consumers. We were pleased the providers of the cards were all receptive to our correspondence and to reconsidering aspects of their terms of use. Changes included increases in the validity periods for cards and replacing non-functioning cards for free when damage to the card is not the passenger’s fault. With hundreds of thousands of consumers using these pre-paid travel cards in our largest cities, these changes will have a broad impact resulting in a more balanced contractual relationship between transport card providers and public transport users.

Also this month, after a raft of complaints, we publicly advised consumers to seriously consider whether buying tickets from ticket reselling website Viagogo is worth the risk. We have now had more than 300 complaints about the ticket reselling website and have sought expert legal advice on whether and how we can enforce New Zealand consumer laws against Viagogo which is based in Switzerland.

In our mergers work, we granted clearance to Heinz Wattie’s to acquire the food and instant coffee business of Cerebos Gregg’s subject to a divestment undertaking. We also cleared Rhone to acquire the swimming pool equipment company Fluidra. However, we declined clearance for Trade Me to acquire Motorcentral, as we could not be satisfied that the merger would not be likely to substantially lessen competition in the provision of dealer management software products to independent motor vehicle dealers and in the supply of online classified advertising to motor vehicle dealers.

On the industry regulation front, we released our draft decision on Wellington Electricity’s proposal to spend $31 million on improving its network’s resilience to a major earthquake. After analysing the proposal, we were satisfied that the expenditure is needed and has been costed appropriately to ensure Wellington’s network is better prepared to withstand a major earthquake. We expect to release our final decision on this and on Powerco’s application for a customised price-quality path before Easter.

We have been engaging with MBIE on a range of potential legislative changes including the introduction of criminalisation into the cartels regime, market studies, a new regulatory framework for fixed line fibre services and changes to the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act. As well as providing input into policy development and legislation drafting, we  have been developing our plans to put in place the people, systems and processes that we will need to implement those changes at the Commission.

And finally, earlier this week our Chairman Dr Mark Berry announced that the Board had appointed a new Chief Executive – Adrienne Meikle. Adrienne is currently Deputy Chief Executive, Corporate, Governance and Information group at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. She commences her new role at the Commission in early May, succeeding Brent Alderton who left the Commission in January. We look forward to welcoming Adrienne.

Geoff Williamson
Acting Chief Executive