Election survey 2020

We quiz political parties on how they’d tackle eight key consumer issues.

New Zealand general election ballot box

We head to the polls on 17 October. Ahead of the big day, we ask political parties where they stand on our top consumer issues.

Supermarket investigation

What’s the issue?

New Zealand has one of the most concentrated supermarket industries in the world, with just two major players: Countdown and Foodstuffs (owner of the New World and Pak’nSave brands).

Concentration in any market brings with it the risk consumers will pay more than they should due to the lack of competition. And our research shows there are good grounds for shoppers to question whether grocery prices are fair.

We want the Commerce Commission to investigate competition in the supermarket sector. We got support for this from the Greens, Labour and National.

Does your party support the Commerce Commission carrying out a market study of the supermarket industry to assess levels of competition?

Refunds for cancelled flights

What’s the issue?

Thousands of Kiwis were denied refunds when Covid-19 grounded flights. Instead of getting their cash back, many were stuck with credits. That’s because our laws don’t require airlines to provide refunds when flights are cancelled for reasons outside their control.

Compare that with flight rules in the EU and US, which entitle passengers to refunds if their flight’s cancelled, regardless of the reason.

We asked the parties whether they supported changing the law: the Greens, Labour and National were willing to investigate the issue. ACT considered it a case of “buyer beware”.

Does your party support law changes requiring airlines to refund passengers for cancelled flights, regardless of the reason for cancellation?

Fair insurance

What’s the issue?

Insurance is the only industry largely exempt from the Fair Trading Act’s ban on unfair contract terms. This makes it easier for insurers to sell junk products that provide poor value to consumers.

Unsurprisingly, trust in the industry is low: our latest survey found just 13 percent of Kiwis were confident insurers could be trusted.

Does your party support removing this exemption from the Fair Trading Act to ensure insurance contracts offered to consumers are fair?

Electricity costs

What’s the issue?

Residential power prices have risen an eye-watering 79 percent since 1990, the Electricity Price Review’s 2018 report found.

Price hikes have had a major impact on many consumers. Our latest electricity survey found a third were very concerned about their household power costs and 17 percent had difficulty paying their bills in the past year. We think Kiwis deserve a fairer deal.

What would your party do to ensure electricity is affordable for all New Zealanders?

Fair Trading Act penalties

What’s the issue?

The Commerce Commission has limited powers to issue infringement notice fines for breaches of the Fair Trading Act. We want that to change so companies can be fined, without needing to drag them to court, for clear-cut breaches of the act.

We also want penalties for misleading conduct to be increased. At present, the maximum penalty is $600,000.

Labour and the Greens both supported giving the commission more powers.

Does your party support giving the Commerce Commission the power to issue notices for misleading conduct breaches and increasing the level of fines?

Electronic waste

What’s the issue?

Too many appliances end up being dumped because recycling facilities aren’t always available. Just 20 percent of Kiwis think it’s easy to find somewhere to recycle their dead appliances.

Other countries have introduced product stewardship schemes that make companies take responsibility for the goods they sell at the end of the products’ life. But that’s yet to happen here.

Labour and the Greens gave us a firm “yes” to a mandatory product stewardship programme for electronic waste.

Does your party support progressing a mandatory product stewardship scheme for electronic waste to make companies responsible for end-of-life goods?

Drug advertising

What’s the issue?

New Zealand and the US are the only countries in the developed world that allow direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA) of prescription medicines. Our research has found these ads don’t provide consumers with useful information and increase the risk of medicines being overprescribed.

The majority of Kiwis support banning drug ads, in favour of a health information service that provides independent advice about treatment options.

National and the Greens agreed DTCA should be banned. Labour will consider it.

Does your party support a ban on DTCA?

Climate change

What’s the issue?

Seventy-two percent of consumers rate climate change as a key concern. Latest figures show greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are at an all-time high and we’re set to see the warmest five years on record.

Many consumers are already taking steps to reduce their carbon footprints but action from the government is also needed.

What would your party do to reduce carbon emissions and support consumers who are acting to reduce their carbon footprints?

Answers have been edited for clarity and brevity. We’ve included responses from parties with seats in parliament or polling 2% or above at the time of our survey. New Zealand First was invited to respond to the survey but didn’t do so by the time we published.

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