Another chapter for you on the Commerce Commission and how they might be a bit out of touch with the rest of us.

So to bring you up to speed, if you have missed it: I became concerned over their decision regards the merger of media companies NZME and Fairfax after they rejected it.

The merger of Vodafone and Sky? They rejected it. The former is under appeal. The latter they have kind of got around with a new arrangement.

Then we got to the price-fixing in real estate, two companies defended themselves in court and won. Then this week, the Government announced greater powers for the commission on petrol.


Well the powers apply to anything they want to investigate, but the current market is petrol and whether we are getting ripped off. This, of course, is politically popular. Oil companies are ogres, we pay too much to drive our cars, anyone hauled over the coals for egregious pricing will be cheered in villages all over the kingdom.

But that's not the point. The point is a commission on the loose, and one that is not driven by an overarching view that business needs to be allowed to do business, is potentially an impediment if not a pain in the bum.

New example: the merger of Platinum Equity and OfficeMax. Platinum owns Staples. You'll know the name, massive American operator. OfficeMax is a well-known player in the market here.

Our commission, having said yes, is now saying no. They're saying no because of Fuji Xerox who got themselves involved in a scandal. Their argument is the level of competition has fallen away.

But, and here comes the issue, the merger in Australia has been cleared. In Australia the commission is known as the ACCC, they have no problem with it.

So Australia is cool, we aren't, who's right? And in that is the problem. And if it's not the problem, it's at least worth raising the question.

Just how much interference do we want a commission running? If the commission is out of step with current thinking, how much damage do they do?

And in doing that damage, how long before business gets sick of it? How many deals aren't done? And with those deals not being done, how much expansion doesn't happen?

How many jobs don't get created? How much revenue is not generated? The commission is there as a safeguard, not an overbearing handbrake.

I wonder if they have forgotten their remit and whether their new powers are only going to make that worse.