Law firm criticises 'naming and shaming'

Spark received the most complaints to the Commerce Commission.
Spark received the most complaints to the Commerce Commission.

One of New Zealand’s top law firms has criticised the Commerce Commission’s publication of the most complained about companies.

Russell McVeagh lawyers Sarah Keene, Polly Pope, Troy Pilkington, and Joe Edwards issued a statement against the “naming and shaming” of companies in the Commission’s Consumer Issues Report.

“It is unfortunate that the NZCC continues to publish the number of complaints levelled against specific businesses,” the lawyers said.

“This ‘naming and shaming’ risks reputational damage to those businesses that outweighs any benefit to consumers.”

• Spark most complained about company

The Commission’s report showed a quarter of all complaints to the organisation were about just 21 companies, with pricing the most common issue.

Spark received the most complaints with 140, followed by Vodafone with 133 and then sellers on Trade Me with 121.

The statement from Russell McVeagh said the caveats the commission put in its report were not sufficient to protect the reputations of companies.

The Commission includes the caveats in its report that larger companies were likely to receive more complaints and complaints did not necessarily mean any law had been broken

“Regardless of the caveats, publishing the number of complaints received about individual named companies in an official report about NZCC enforcement gives the impression those companies have done wrong, or are more likely to have done wrong, than other companies who are not listed,” the statement said.

“For example, the 2016 Report lists Harvey Norman as the fourth most complained about trader under the Fair Trading Act, only noting via footnote that 84 of Harvey Norman’s 117 complaints (72 per cent) were a result of a single instance of online pricing error.”

The statement said in future it hoped the Commission presents the complaints in a more balanced way by listing the number of complaints by industry, only naming businesses who had broken the law and adding more detail.

The law firm commended the commission on its transparency.

- NZ Herald

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