MP continues attack on Countdown

HAMISH RUTHERFORD
Last updated 17:24 19/02/2014

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Countdown demanded "tens of thousands" of dollars at short notice from a supplier for insufficient sales, Labour's economic development spokesman, Shane Jones, has alleged in Parliament.

Jones, who has made a series of claims about Countdown, responded in the House today to the supermarket's claim that he had not stated any specifics.

Jones said he would give "three specifics" of contact he had with Countdown's suppliers.

"Countdown demanded tens of thousands of dollars from a supplier by five o'clock that day, as payment for insufficient sales achieved in the previous month, from their product list or it was goodnight Irene," Jones said.
Another supplier had emailed Jones about his experience.

"He was told that even to get ... anywhere near [Countdown] that he had to pay 7 per cent of turnover back to the company. When he spoke to the Aussie suppliers to Countdown, they said they'd never heard of this policy," Jones said.

"Don't Sir, accuse, i.e., out there, that this parliamentarian does not have detail," Jones said.

Jones also alleged that the owners of a business with 30 employees and turnover of $4.5 million a year lost their business and had moved to Australia as a result of standing up to Countdown.

Earlier, during Question Time, Jones questioned Commerce Minister Craig Foss about whether the Commerce Commission inquiry could be undermined.

Jones claims suppliers are concerned about the consequences of contacting the Commerce Commission, in case they are punished by Woolworths in Australia.

Jones asked Foss: "Does he think it enhances or undermines the Commerce Commission processes if the Woolworths Australia chairman, Mr Ralph Waters, is found to be calling New Zealand suppliers and dissuading them from participating in this legal process, lest they face dire consequences in his supermarkets in Australia?"

Asked for comment, Countdown simply noted Jones' comments.

"The Commerce Commission has indicated they are now assessing the complaint and any evidence that is provided to them," a spokesman said in a statement.

"We believe it's important to let this process take its course, and we will fully co-operate with any enquiries." 

Woolworths chairman Ralph Waters angrily dismissed the claims.

"I completely reject Mr Jones' allegations and find his insinuations highly offensive.

"My contribution to business in New Zealand speaks for itself. For the last 13 years I have worked at a senior level with companies such as Fletcher Building, Fisher and Paykel Appliances, Fonterra and Westpac New Zealand," Waters said.

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"I am extremely disappointed in Mr Jones' behaviour. Attacking an individual and business through the Parliament is no way for any politician to deal with an issue of concern or engage with the business sector."

Outside the House Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce said he believed Jones had "over-egged" the allegations and should now let the Commerce Commission get on with its inquiry.

"Shane has probably gone a fair way further than he needed to go to get these questions put in front of the Commerce Commission and I think he's basking in the political glory," Joyce said.

"He's got to now give the Commerce Commission the opportunity to do its work, and I think if he's going to keep ladling allegations on people he's got to be able to substantiate them." 

- © Fairfax NZ News

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