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NZ Work to Investigate Supermarket, Construction Equipment Prices


Photo: Birgit Krippner / Bloomberg

New Zealand’s ruling Labor Party said it would investigate prices in the supermarket and construction equipment industries if it wins this month’s election to ensure consumers are paying fair prices.

Labor would begin a market study in supermarkets before the end of the year and a similar review of construction supplies in late 2021, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a statement Thursday. The studies to be conducted by the Trade Commission will look at the structure, conditions and performance of the market to ensure that there is sufficient competition to keep prices low.

“Food is one of our most regular expenses, and buying or renovating a home is the biggest investment many of us will make in our lifetime, so we want to make sure prices are right,” Ardern said. . “We want to make sure the cost of living in New Zealand is right and these market studies have the potential to help, providing us with the information we need to act.”

Labor will return to power in the October 17 election. She had 47% support in a One News-Colmar Brunton poll published on September 28, and her Green ally had 7% support, enabling them to quietly form a government. The main opposition National Party had 33% support.

Last year, the Labor-led government demanded a market study in the fuel industry, which concluded that consumers were paying higher prices for gasoline and diesel than could be expected in a competitive market. Ardern followed by pushing a law to improve wholesale competition in the market created to put downward pressure on pump prices.

New Zealand has one of the most concentrated retail food sectors in the world, and a market study will answer questions and concerns that consumers are paying more than they should, Ardern said. She said the average weekly household spending on food has risen by more than the inflation rate and there is evidence of unequal purchasing power from the two dominant operators that could raise prices.

Labor said building materials could account for nearly a fifth of the cost of building a new home and there is evidence of barriers to competition that could push prices higher. Two companies control 85% of the concrete supply and one company controls 94% of the gypsum board supply, she said.

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