Editorial: Price gouging warnings need to be heeded

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Photo / Richard Robinson
Photo / Richard Robinson

International Rugby Board chief executive Mike Miller rather left himself open to criticism when he complained that some New Zealanders were guilty of World Cup price gouging.

The ripostes were not slow in coming. Rugby's governors were doing exactly the same with the prices they were charging for match tickets, said some.

Others were equally irritated by Mr Miller's intimation that, given the lesser revenue that the IRB would extract from this year's event, it was doing this country a favour by staging it here. That overlooked the millions of dollars donated by ratepayers and taxpayers, some much aggrieved, to the tournament.

Yet, notwithstanding the justification for some of this reaction, it would be folly not to take on board the points that Mr Miller was making. Most were undoubtedly valid, as were those of a similar nature raised a year ago by international writer Peter Bills.

These tended to be drowned out by a vitriolic response. Mr Miller, for his part, was careful not to overstate the extent of the problem but, equally, was clear that price gouging was being practised, particularly by smaller hotel operators.

From time to time, the Herald has highlighted examples of gouging. It has also reported on the dismay and dissatisfaction of people overseas who have been on the receiving end. Clearly, further examples have been mentioned to the IRB.

Mr Miller's statement suggests this is happening in a manner that has not afflicted past Rugby World Cups, and that the IRB deems it enough of a problem to fire a shot across the bows of those who are ramping their prices unreasonably.

His main point was that those guilty of the practice have a damaging short-term view. Taking advantage of the event may garner a quick profit, but it will not send people home singing this country's praises.

Many of the 85,000 overseas visitors expected during the World Cup will be coming here for the first time. On average, they will spend 23 nights in this country, more than enough time to form a binding impression.

If they feel ripped off, they will not come back, and they will not tell their friends and relatives that New Zealand is a destination that offers value for money.

The importance of tourism and the sheer scope of the World Cup mean the ramifications cannot be discarded. Most people have to make a special effort to travel the long distances to get here. In return, they expect something a little bit out of the ordinary.

Traditionally, New Zealand has prided itself on providing value and friendly service. If this is no longer so in some cases, people will quite happily spend their holidays closer to home.

Big events like the World Cup always attract a premium. Overseas visitors know they will pay above the normal tariff for their accommodation.

New Zealanders, for their part, must accept they have to dig deeper into their wallets to watch international rugby in its most momentous context. If Mr Miller is correct, we will not have that opportunity again any time soon.

There is a big difference, however, between paying a premium and being a victim of price gouging. This country has been warned more than once of the perils of the latter. It would pay to pay attention.

- NZ Herald

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