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A New Order For Consumer Protection

The Government is ready to act with vigour to protect the interests of New Zealand consumers, the Minister of Consumer Affairs Hon Phillida Bunkle told the Commerce Commission's annual conference in Wellington today.

"The Commerce Commission should be aware of the preparedness of the Government to act. I believe this Government expects the Commerce Commission to act similarly," the Minister said.

The Minister said previous governments had been reluctant to tackle major market "problem areas" where corporate behaviour disadvantaged many consumers.

"The Government is demonstrably not anti-markets; in fact we are very much for competitive markets. The greatest threat to competition is the denial of information to consumers," Ms Bunkle said in her address.

"This creates an exploitative power imbalance, or in effect, is little more than price gouging."

The Minister said while the Fair Trading Act required businesses to provide honest and not, misleading information, it did not make information compulsory.

"According to the Fair Trading Act, not being informed is okay," she said.

The Government had several initiatives to deal specifically with identifying and addressing consumer concerns, Ms Bunkle said. This included Inquiries into the Electricity and Telecommunication sectors.

E-Commerce also had the Government's urgent attention. Among recent initiatives is the Ministry of Consumer Affair's proposed model code of conduct for Internet-businesses, Ms Bunkle said.

She was also expecting developments in the Consumer Credit Law review.
"The whole area of credit law is fraught with dangers for the consumers and again this review is an attempt to address this power imbalance."


ENDS

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