Supermarket referee long overdue

Parliament will have the opportunity to establish a supermarket referee to ensure supermarkets treat suppliers fairly, after Green MP Mojo Mathers’ Commerce (Supermarket Adjudicator and Code of Conduct) Amendment Bill was pulled from the members’ bill ballot today.

The Bill establishes an independent supermarket adjudicator who would work with the industry to develop a code of conduct for relationships between supermarkets and their suppliers, and deal with complaints about behaviour that allegedly breaches the code. 

“The two huge supermarket chains control over 90 percent of the industry and have such extensive buying power that they can dictate terms and prices to their suppliers, who are often smaller local companies,” Green Party commerce and consumer affairs spokesperson Mojo Mathers said.

“Local food producers can be forced into accepting low prices from the supermarkets, who can then on-sell the local food with huge margins and make massive profits. People pay more for food but the local companies who make the food don’t get the benefit.

“New Zealand has the most concentrated supermarket market in the world and so local produce suppliers and consumers need someone on their side to make sure they get a fair deal and don’t face harmful monopolistic behaviour.

“The current system isn’t working because the Commerce Commission is an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. The supermarket adjudicator would be a fence at the top, stopping potential issues before they become big problems and establishing an independent process for dispute resolution.

“All New Zealanders will benefit from a fairer system for supplying supermarkets because if small local food producers are forced out of business by anti-competitive behaviour from the supermarkets, not only will jobs be cut but consumers will have less choice on the shelves.

"Experience from the UK and from Australia shows that voluntary codes don't work because there is too great an imbalance in power between the negotiating parties. The UK has a compulsory code of conduct and an independent adjudicator,” Ms Mathers said.