Commerce Commission to investigate supermarkets

HAMISH RUTHERFORD
Last updated 15:10 20/02/2014

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A Commerce Commission investigation into supermarkets appears to be only looking into the activities of Countdown.

Today in Parliament Commerce Minister Craig Foss announced that after a week of inquiries, the competition regulator was formally investigating, in what appeared to be a wide ranging probe.

"I can confirm that the Commerce Commission has launched a formal investigation into the supermarket sector of New Zealand."

But the Commerce Commission has now confirmed that the investigation only relates to Australian-owned Woolworths.

"The Commerce Commission has confirmed it is formally investigating the allegations of anti-competitive behavior towards suppliers by Countdown," the regulator said in a statement.

"The investigation will involve seeking a wide range of information from a variety of sources, including organisations from all areas of the supermarket sector. The investigation is expected to take a number of months."

Foss confirmed the investigation under questioning from Labour MP Shane Jones during question time.

Jones has made a series of allegations about Countdown and its Australian owners Woolworths over the last week.

These allegations include blackmail and extortion, and the demanding of retrospective payments from suppliers for past trading.

Jones suggested in Parliament yesterday that Woolworths chairman Ralph Waters was calling suppliers warning them not to speak to the regulator about its activities.

Both Countdown and Waters rejected the allegations.

using the protection of Parliament about Countdown and its Australian owners, Woolworths, over the past week.

The allegations include blackmail and extortion, and the demanding of retrospective payments from suppliers for past trading.

Jones suggested in Parliament yesterday that Woolworths chairman Ralph Waters was calling suppliers warning them not to speak to the regulator about its activities.

Both Countdown and Waters have rejected the allegations.

Jones said this afternoon the announcement was "a victory for Kiwi firms and consumers" and that his approach had been vindicated.

He is due to meet with the commission this afternoon, and said he would tell them the investigation had to be "sufficiently resourced and have broad, wide-ranging scope".

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- The Dominion Post

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