WOBH was one of first out of the blocks after Kiwi suppliers tipped us off about Countdown’s Godfather type behaviour, earlier in the year.
However today we see the Commerce Commission clearing Countdown from any anti-competitive behaviour, saying that it has investigated 90 complaints.
After a disasterous PR year for Countdown, its boss Dave Chambers is now on a PR offensive saying he’s been exonerated and that “the shadow of these false allegations” had been distracting for the company, alongside having a crack at former Labour MP Shane Jones.
All is not quite as rosy for Countdown as they would like, and the 90 complaints shouldn’t be dismissed quite so quickly. It’s not like it was one or two complaints… 90 complaints indicate they’ve got some “communication problems”.
To have ‘numerous suppliers asked that they not be identified’ should further demonstrate to Dave Chambers that all is not well with their supplier relationships.
The Commerce Commission’s observations that despite “Progressive’s conduct in each investigative case was not likely to be unlawful” they cautioned a number of parties, and included the warning:
exchanging information about future competitor behaviour, or discussing supplier interactions with a competitor. These types of exchanges create an environment in which anti-competitive agreements or conduct can
easily emerge. This creates significant risk for the parties involved, including employees. Such exchanges and discussions should be avoided.
The Commerce Commission Report also says:
We accept that a smaller retailer may not be able to apply the same commercial pressure as Progressive. However, that in itself does not mean that Progressive has taken advantage of any substantial market power.
Meanwhile Labour’s Clayton Cosgrove is putting on a brave face and has issued a media release pushing for a mandatory code of conduct for supermarkets. He’s saying that:
The Commission was only able to look at the letter of the law. In Labour’s view the law is not strong enough. In Australia the ACCC is currently prosecuting Coles for anti-competitive behaviour and has a code of practice.
The UK has an independent adjudicator with a mandatory code of practice. In that country there are ten dominant supermarket players who effectively control 85 per cent of the market and that has been judged to be too much concentrated market power. In New Zealand there are two dominant players, with 95 per cent market share.
My spies in Parliament are telling me that Countdown chief lobbyist Sue Wood has been sent in to calm the horses. Gee that’ll be a welcoming sight.