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Vero's Tower takeover appeal to be heard in January, ComCom's Berry says

Tuesday 5th September 2017

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Vero Insurance's appeal against the Commerce Commission's rejection of its planned takeover of rival general insurer Tower will be heard in January next year, says commission chairman Mark Berry. 

The appeal is one of two major decisions the regulator is preparing for after a heavy year of merger and acquisition activity that saw the commission face "some of our most complex cases," Berry told a stakeholders briefing in Wellington. In the past year, the commission rejected merger applications by news publishers Fairfax New Zealand and NZME, pay-TV operator Sky Network Television and telecommunications group Vodafone New Zealand and turned down Vero's takeover of NZX-listed Tower. 

While Sky and Vodafone decided against pursuing an appeal, Fairfax and NZME will have their day in court next month, and Berry said the Vero-Tower action "is scheduled in the High Court to start late in January next year." 

"While we have declined more merger applications in the last year or so than we have in previous years, it is not a sign of change in process or approach from the commission," Berry said. "We continue to apply the commerce act in the same way we always have."

On top of that litigation from the commission's competition arm, it also has a broad range of consumer cases involving more mobile traders and representations of steel mesh in the construction sector. 

"It's fair to say we have, I think, by far the busiest litigation programme in consumer law than we have had in some time," Berry said. 

The regulator will release its annual consumer issues report, which identifies current and emerging risks it sees as having the potential to affect consumers and markets. 

Berry said the regulator is also working through the requirements of a legislative amendment enabling the authorisation of collaboration by rival firms where such a deal provides positive benefits. 

Other work on its agenda for the current financial year include building a new website focused on the user's experience, which Berry said will include a "significantly much-improved search functionality" and a central case register. 

(BusinessDesk)

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