Cartel conduct: New Zealand’s first ever criminal cartel prosecution
The Commerce Commission recently filed criminal charges against two construction companies and their directors for alleged bid-rigging of publicly funded construction contracts. This is New Zealand’s first ever criminal prosecution for alleged cartel conduct under the Commerce Act 1986.
Bid-rigging, or collusive tendering, occurs where some or all the bidders collude to pre-determine who will win the bid or tender. This is a form of cartel conduct that is prohibited by the Act.
The case is currently before the court so information is limited but, if found guilty, the companies and their directors could face serious penalties. Each company could be fined up to $10 million, three times their commercial gain from the cartel conduct or 10% of their turnover per year per breach. Each director could be imprisoned for up to seven years and/or fined up to $500,000.
The Commission’s willingness to bring criminal proceedings for cartel conduct is a warning for all businesses to understand their obligations under the Act and have adequate processes to avoid engaging in cartel conduct.
New privacy rules for biometrics
The Office of the Privacy Commissioner (OPC) has announced it will release a draft policy code early this year regulating the collection and use of biometric information. The code will have direct implications for any businesses dealing with biometric information.
Biometric information is any information about a person’s biological or behavioural characteristics, such as fingerprints, face, voice or eyes. It is increasingly common for businesses to collect and use biometric information to verify people’s identities online, enhance retail security, control access to devices or physical spaces, or to monitor attendance at a site or a work place.
While the use of biometrics has significant benefits for businesses, it also increases the risks of profiling, discrimination, bias, and lack of transparency and control to individuals.
The OPC has proposed three categories of rules that businesses must comply with when collecting and using biometric information. These are:
- Proportionality assessment: Businesses must undertake a proportionality assessment to ensure that the reasons for collecting biometric information outweigh the risk of privacy intrusion
- Transparency and notification: Businesses must be open and transparent with individuals and the public about the collection and use of their biometric information, and
- Purpose limitations: The collection and use of biometric information will be restricted for certain purposes.
The public will have an opportunity to provide feedback on the code before it is implemented.
New reporting obligations for large businesses
The Business Payment Practices Act 2023 will come into effect on 25 May 2024. It will require large businesses to publicly report information on their payment practices to the Business Payment Practices Register.
The legislation applies to businesses with more than $33 million in annual revenue and $10 million in third party expenditure. The information that must be reported on includes:
- The average time to pay supplier invoices
- The percentage of invoices paid in full within the required timeframe, and
- A description of the business’s standard payment terms (if any).
If a business fails to comply with its reporting obligations, it could be fined up to $9,000. If a business intentionally provides false or misleading information, it could be fined up to $500,000. The Act is designed to address payment delays that can have significant impacts on the cash flow for New Zealand’s small and medium-sized businesses.
If you would like more information or advice on any of the above topics, please feel free to contact us.
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Copyright, NZ LAW Limited, 2022. Editor: Adrienne Olsen. E-mail: [email protected]. Ph: 029 286 3650