Consumer Law Reform announcement worrying for sector

Press Release 16/03/2011

“Today’s announcement of a range of consumer law reform proposals by the Minister of Consumer Affairs contains some ideas which are concerning to the food and grocery sector and require further explanation, says Katherine Rich, Chief Executive of the New Zealand Food and Grocery Council.

“The stated aim of this reform work at the beginning of this work was to simplify business compliance, provide clarity and cut red tape.

“Many of the proposals announced today appear to do the exact opposite.

“Some of the proposals will actually increase red tape for business, not diminish it and do little more than create legal uncertainty withinNew Zealand’s business environment.

“We have immediately sought explanation from officials of the thinking behind expanding the jurisdiction of the Disputes Tribunal to cover complaints about misleading and deceptive conduct. We are hoping that information will be forthcoming that can convince us this is not a minefield for our members.

“The arguments will have to be compelling, however, to rebut some of the concerns already raised with the Consumer Affairs Ministry by the Ministry of Justice (MOJ).

“MOJ’s comments in the Cabinet Committee paper that the Disputes Tribunal is potentially not equipped to deal with these sorts of cases, which are often complex areas of law, could not have been more damning. MOJ also warned of the major financial implications for the taxpayer from a significantly increased caseload for the Tribunal.

“We’d like to be assured that a policy which will generate more traffic for the Disputes Tribunal is not a legal or bureaucratic Tar Baby for the grocery sector.

“We sincerely wish that our concerns can be allayed, but based on what has been announced today, we are concerned that business red tape could increase as a result of a number of these proposals, said Mrs Rich.