Bust this monopoly mum

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Commerce Commission urged to check Waka High uniform deal.

Wheels are in motion for an official inquiry into Wakatipu High’s school uniform monopoly contract with a Queenstown retailer.

Local mum Rebecca Thompson has complained to the Commerce Commission after facing a $1500 uniform bill for her two children at Beach Street supplier Rockies.

She’s annoyed Rockies is the only official supplier in town, despite Postie Plus selling the same outfits for $700 less in its nationwide SchoolTex range.

Wakatipu High currently has an ongoing exclusive contract with Rockies to sell the uniforms bearing the school logo.

Thompson has spent the past few days helping Postie Plus compile an alternative-supplier tender for the school to consider.

“But everybody at the school’s adamant that they’re not even interested,” says a disappointed Thompson.

“Which is unfair – they’ve got to look at all options available to them, and they’ve got to have competitive uniform availability.”

The government watchdog has told Thompson they’ll get back to her in a couple of weeks once a team specialising in the Commerce Act looks at her complaint.

Following this, the Commerce Commission will decide whether to formally investigate.

“They said I’ve got grounds for an investigation,” Thompson says.

A commission spokeswoman won’t confirm this, saying staff “very rarely give an opinion, especially before it’s assessed”.

“There has been a complaint, it has been registered and it’s waiting to be assessed through our normal process,” the spokeswoman says.

Commission guidelines – issued in December for all schools signing uniform contracts with suppliers – include several stipulations:

  • Conducting tenders on a regular basis “if an exclusive arrangement is preferred”.
  • Appointing multiple suppliers if demand is “sufficient”.
  • Choosing suppliers based on “objective criteria”.
  • School boards should fully inform parents of the reasons for any exclusive arrangement.
  • Boards should advise parents of steps taken to ensure prices are not unreasonable.

The Commerce Act prohibits conduct that restricts competition.

Wakatipu High principal Lyn Cooper couldn’t be contacted.

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