On Thursday, the New Zealand Minister for Commerce and Consumer Affairs tabled a new bill in Parliament which makes cartel conduct a criminal offence for the first time.
The new offence would carry a maximum penalty of seven years imprisonment and/or $500,000 for individuals, and the greater of $10 million, three times the commercial gain or 10% of the turnover for other entities.
Defences have been included in relation to collaborative activities and international liner shipping services.
Businesses will have plenty of time to adjust to the changes: if enacted, as the bill will not commence until two years after it is given Royal Assent.
This development is somewhat surprising after New Zealand introduced wide-ranging cartel reforms in August last year following an extensive review. A decision was made at the time not to include a criminal offence, but to instead monitor domestic and international developments to assess the effects of cartel criminalisation. Its introduction marks delivery on an election commitment by PM Jacinda Arden’s Labour Party.
The bill is scheduled to be read for a first time in parliament next week.