I've been writing a lot about law reform recently, because so much is going on that will affect resellers.
My main target has been the Consumer Law Reform Bill, which contains wide ranging reforms of consumer law, but does not change the Consumer Guarantees Act by much, which is good because that law works well.
When you submit comments about a bill, you can also choose to appear before the Select Committee.
I typically opt in because you never know what the committee will ask, and it's always interesting to hear from other people who have turned up.
Most submitters I see or read about seem to be suppliers: people selling directly to consumers, businesses or both. You get industry associations commenting with varying degrees of skill, but they sometimes get so fixated on their own problems that they forget the flow-on effect of what they are asking for. They are so anxious in support of some aspects of a bill that they don't realise other negative consequences.
Other people may suggest a fix that doesn't have legs, because it is inconsistent with the objectives of the government as expressed in a Cabinet minute. If you want to influence policy, it's usually too late by the time it gets to Select Committee unless there is a truly awful mess.
And then there are the submitters, often small businesses, who say something that no one has thought of before. These are the gems that the politicians are looking for. They make the whole process worthwhile.
But what really struck me in the Consumer Law Reform Bill was the lack of attention given to the supply chain. Submitters worried about consumers, of course. But my mantra is "Nothing happens in the New Zealand economy until a consumer pulls out some money and gives it to a supplier." So, I think, the politicians and policy makers have to worry about the consumer andthe retailer.
But there is much more to it than simply balancing an equation. To illustrate this point, think back to the Waste Management Bill of some years ago that was going to require vendors and distributors to notify the government about every single product they were going to import one month before it arrived, so that some public servant could decide whether it was a good idea for the environment.
We managed to kill that aspect of of that bill, alongside other off-the-wall provisions, with the help of IT distributors and resellers: the supply chain, essentially. What vendor in its right mind would have subjected a worldwide or local product launch to that regime?
And so it was with the Consumer Law Reform Bill. The supply chain was conspicuously absent in policy papers, and apparently not on the politicians' radar. Yet, some of the changes (notably the substantiation provisions and the proposed amendments to the Carriage of Goods Act) would have had such a significant effect on the supply chain, and as I pointed out to the Select Committee, on consumers, because cost is always passed down to the consumer in the end. The committe listened intently. I just hope my argument worked. We'll find out in August.
Rae Nield is a solicitor specialising in marketing law. This article is intended for general information, and should not be relied on as specific legal advice. You should consult a lawyer for advice relating to your own specific legal problems. Rae Nield can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.