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Court Dismisses Bunnings' Appeal In 'Lowest Prices' Case

Bunnings - lowest prices.jpg

Bunnings New Zealand has lost an appeal and had a judicial review rejected, pertaining to a long-running battle over its famous 'lowest prices' strapline.

In 2016, the New Zealand Commerce Commission charged Bunnings with 45 pricing offences under the Fair Trading Act, following a 2014 complaint by rival DIY retailer Mitre 10 over the use of phrases such as, "Lowest prices are just the beginning" and "Bunnings has the lowest price on everything you need", which featured in media advertising, on staff uniforms and on its stores.

Bunnings denied the charges and pleaded not guilty to the offences, which carry a potential fine of up to NZ $600,000 each. 

In 2019, Bunnings appealed against Judge Cunningham's approval of the use of the pricing evidence gathered by Mitre 10 and the use of Murrary Snowden, Group Manager of Business Efficiency at Mitre 10 New Zealand Limited, as a witness.

In December 2019, a High Court decision was made by Justice Duffy to dismiss the appeal, allowing the use of the data and the staff member as evidence in the case.

Bunnings returned to Auckland's High Court in March 2020 to appeal against the ruling and to request a judicial review, alleging that the price comparison data used in court was an "illegitimate discovery exercise", as the information was provided by Mitre 10, under summons, to the Commerce Commission 

Both the ruling and review were dismissed last week; Justice Duffy said that the data had been provided voluntarily by Mitre 10 and all that mattered was if the company was selling goods at the same or lower prices than Bunnings during the timeframe in question, and that the data could still be produced.

Justice Duffy said: “No-one disputes that a facsimile copy of the price data comparisons that Mitre 10 made in 2015/2016 was not kept, and that any price comparisons that Mitre 10 may now provide for the 2015/2016 period will be the outcome of Mitre 10 interrogating its electronic data systems sometime after 2015/2016.”

Bunnings could now face a penalty of up to $27 million.   

Bunnings employs over 3,500 people in New Zealand and is one of the country's largest employers, operating 46 stores and turning over NZ $1.35 billion in the last financial year.

Source : Insight DIY Team

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29 April 2020

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