17 Oct 2018

National supports Commerce Commission market studies bill

7:13 am on 17 October 2018

The National Party has done a U-turn supporting a bill that will give the Commerce Commission the power to conduct market studies, like the proposed fuel price study.

Judith Collins

National MP Judith Collins. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

That's despite openly opposing it in a recent select committee report.

National members on the committee said they "do not support the bill in its current form" and they "recommend that the bill not proceed".

But last night National MP Judith Collins told Parliament her party had looked into the matter further and would now support the Commerce Amendment Bill.

"We have decided in the National Party that we need to support this bill because we do need to get these issues dealt with. We have seen rising petrol costs and diesel costs this year," she said.

On Monday Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told New Zealanders she believed they were being [https://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/368200/ardern-speeds-up-law-change-to-tackle-soaring-petrol-prices

fleeced by fuel companies], and this legislation would mean the Commerce Commission could look into that.

National continues to blame Labour's new regional fuel tax and raised excise taxes for high prices at the pump, and fuel companies deny being the reason for soaring petrol prices.

But once passed, this legislation will enable the Commerce Commission to undertake "competition studies", research into the structure and behaviour of markets, and then report on those findings.

National opposed of aspects of the bill, mainly the idea of the Commerce Commission being able to launch investigations without having to get ministerial sign-off first.

Ms Collins said compliance could be extremely costly.

"We should not underestimate how debilitating the cost and the time involved in complying with requests from the Commerce Commission can be," she said.

As a minister Ms Collins ordered the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to carry out a survey where oil companies were asked for information but did not have to hand it over - and she said the threat of that in itself drove prices down.

However, she said not all companies were open with their market information, calling out Mobil and Gull stations specifically.

"The companies that did provide full information as requested were Z and BP. I think it's good to put it on record who provided the information," she said.

The National Party voted in support of the bill, which passed second reading last night.