The Grocery Industry Competition Bill will address a wide range of desperately needed changes in the grocery sector, says the New Zealand Food & Grocery Council.
“These proposals will be welcomed by suppliers and consumers as further concrete steps towards helping reduce pain at the checkout and ensuring better choice of products,” says Chief Executive Raewyn Bleakley.
The bill was introduced to Parliament by Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister David Clark on November 21 and passed the First Reading on November 22. The select committee is due to report back to the Parliament on 23 March 2023.
“The Government and Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs David Clark are to be congratulated for moving so fast on these vital changes.
“An expected enactment date in the middle of next year is earlier than many would have hoped for back in March when the Commerce Commission reported back with its recommendations from its Grocery Market Study.
“Addressing wholesale offerings to competitors on commercial terms, with a backup of additional regulation if those terms compromise competition in the market, is very significant.
“This is a complex area and we welcome measures that will get more competition into the market for the benefit of consumers.
“There are two ways we’d like to see this happen: by another significant retailer entering the market and by a host of smaller ones able to compete more effectively with the big retailers.
“This is what we hope the proposals in this bill will achieve.
“In the past, the big supermarkets have declined requests from some independent retailers seeking wholesale supply.
“We are aware steps are being taken now ahead of this bill being introduced and look forward to seeing this change as a result. The message from the Government that if this isn’t done voluntarily it there will be regulatory intervention was emphasised in today’s announcement.
“These measures will work hand-in-hand with the power the bill aims to give to a newly created Grocery Commissioner – to impose additional regulation to require wholesale supply on certain terms, including price and range.
“That’s on top of a range of other enforcement and monitoring tools the Commissioner will have, including keeping a close eye on how the Government’s reforms are being implemented, and making recommendations if they aren’t.
“Of particular interest to suppliers will be to see in black and white the details of the Grocery Code of Conduct, which for many years now they have been seeking.
“What we’ll be looking for in the detail of the bill is that it prevents retailers from using unfair negotiating power to force suppliers to accept unfavourable terms of supply that may involve them taking on costs and risks that are better addressed by the major grocery retailers, extends protections against the use of unfair contract terms, and enables certain suppliers to collectively negotiate terms and conditions of supply with the major retailers.
“Suppliers also welcome the bill’s proposal for an alternative dispute resolution scheme, which will provide independent, prompt, and cost-effective resolution of any dispute they may have with a major retailer. Importantly, this will be accessible to suppliers and wholesale customers, particularly smaller businesses.
“The Food & Grocery Council will now start working on its submission on the bill.”