Progressive cleared of allegations

countdownAn investigation has found that the operator of the Countdown supermarket chain did not breach any of the laws enforced by the Commerce Commission.

The allegations were of anticompetitive and intimidating behaviour by Progressive Enterprises towards its suppliers.

Following the evidence presented and the conclusion of the investigation, the Commission will not be taking any legal action against Progressive Enterprises.

Brent Alderton, Commerce Commission chief executive, said the allegations against Progressive were serious, with the Commission undertaking an extensive and thorough investigation.

“The supermarket industry is important in New Zealand, it has an impact on all New Zealanders and it is vital that it operates in a competitive way. Our role in this investigation was to assess whether Progressive’s dealings with its suppliers breached any of the laws we enforce. We do not consider that any of the conduct we investigated was unlawful and our investigation is now closed. We do not intend to take any further action,” he said.

Almost 90 complaints were received by the Commission.

The investigation was focused on a number of areas, including whether Progressive had engaged in any conduct that was misleading or deceptive or otherwise breached the Fair Trading Act.

The investigation also considered if there was any evidence to suggest that the company’s behaviour might breach the Commerce Act.

“During the course of the investigation we obtained evidence from both Progressive and its suppliers. We don’t consider that the evidence shows that Progressive engaged in misleading or deceptive behaviour or coerced its suppliers in breach of the Fair Trading Act. Nor do we believe the evidence shows Progressive engaged in anti-competitive behaviour in breach of the Commerce Act,” Alderton said.

The investigation did highlight areas where commercial parties were reminded to take care.

“The first is that ambiguity in business communications should be avoided as it can lead to misunderstanding that can place you at risk of breaching the law. The second is that exchanging information about competitors’ future behaviour, or discussing supplier interactions with a competitor carries significant risks for all involved. Individuals who do so are exposing both themselves personally and their company to a potential breach of the law.”

Due to confidentiality the investigation report did not contain any information that would identify individual suppliers.

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