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Tougher competition law needed

Labour
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New Zealand's competition laws will be strengthened and brought into closer alignment with those of Australia under the incoming Labour Government.

Launching the party's competition policy, Labour commerce spokesperson Paul Swain said it was the Fourth Labour Government which had unravelled the Muldoon National Government's suffocating web of economic regulation and price controls and replaced it with the light handed regulatory regime enshrined in the 1986 Commerce Act.

"Labour remains committed to a light-handed approach wherever possible and believes that competition is ultimately a better market discipline than regulation.

"But the rules need to be firm and fair between industry competitors and they need to take into account changing commercial circumstances.

"There is also widespread agreement that the 1986 Act has not kept pace with market changes," Mr Swain said.

"It predates, for example, the corporatisation and privatisation programme which has created in some industries large corporations with monopolistic or near-monopolistic power that can be used against the interests of consumers and potential competitors."

Labour would amend the Act to bring it into line with Australia's less permissive regime. Specific amendments include:
· Lowering the thresholds for anti-competitive behaviour.
· Including a consumer welfare benefit.
· Increasing the penalties for anti-competitive behaviour.
· Introducing an arbitration regime to help resolve competition dispute issues.
· Beefing up the information disclosure regime.

"The Commerce Commission would be expected under Labour to be much more aggressive in its enforcement of the Act and in defending the rights of the consumer," Mr Swain said.

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