Stories by Richard Anstice

Tough measures loom on price cartels

Never talk to your competitors about price, ever. End of story. It is just not worth it. Any agreement between competitors to fix prices, or to rig tenders, or to split up markets is price fixing and is an illegal cartel. Price fixing causes significant harm because customers have to pay more to cover the artificially increased prices.

Companies, play fair and make yourselves known

When I got in from work recently, I told my flatmate that I was getting to write an article about my pet peeve the next day. He responded without blinking, “You mean companies who don’t use their proper company names on invoices and stuff.” I suppose that’s what you get when you flat with a lawyer.

Even more waste...

A Ministry for the Environment official recently published an article beginning “Waste is a symptom that resources are being used inefficiently”. Interesting view, even if it rather ignores some fundamental biological realities about human beings.

There’s a waste minimisation train a-comin’

Now that 2009 is well and truly upon us, the Ministry for the Environment is starting consultation with IT industry stakeholders that could result in sweeping changes being made to the way we dispose of waste IT products in New Zealand. While a product stewardship scheme for environmentally sound disposal of IT products is a great idea, the devil will be in the detail of the scheme rolled out across New Zealand. If you are in the IT channel, you can and should be a part of the Ministry’s consultation process this year.

When is a Kiwi a Kiwi, and not a Chinese gooseberry?

Earlier this year I wrote about Alt TV being hauled over the coals by the Advertising Standards Authority because it offered viewers the chance to win “$10,000 prizes”, when in fact the TV station was only giving away scratch-n-win tickets. Well, now they are not alone.

Habeas corpus upholds democratic rights

You have probably seen headlines recently about detainees held by the US Government at Guantanamo Bay. The process by which people challenge their detention is usually called habeas corpus, and it exists in New Zealand as well as in many other countries. The habeas corpus process empowers people to protect a fundamental democratic right: the right to due process before the law. While “due process” can be a hard concept to define, if a government detains you, due process includes the right to have your day in court to challenge the lawfulness of your detention.

Contracts with under-aged are high-risk

“Only ever be guarantor for hire purchases for your own kids; because if they don’t pay the loan, you can kick their butts.” I worked my way through university as a salesperson for a big-ticket-item retailer and I will always remember that advice from one of my customers. From law school, I now know it to be good advice. There are a number of cases about things going horribly wrong with finance contracts and young people. But it’s not just parents or guarantors who lose out. In a recent case a finance company lost about $10,000 in unrecovered payments after it gave a car loan to a 17-year-old, but couldn’t enforce the contract when the borrower defaulted.

Pick your stereotypes carefully

Australians and Kiwis have been giving each other stick (and laughing about it) for ages. It is so normal to us that we forget it can seem a bit strange to others.

Staff must be in tune with the Fair Trading Act songbook

Signature Range – you will all have seen enough advertising to know that this is a house brand sold in Foodtown and Woolworths supermarkets. In a recent court case, the Signature Range “Lighten Up” breakfast cereal showed that it is true to its name. Lighten Up caused Progressive to walk out of court with lighter pockets – it had to pay $17,000 in fines.

Updated copyright act addresses new technologies

The best lesson I ever had about copyright was when I was at Otago University, laboriously piecing together lines of lead type letter by letter for an old fashioned, hand-operated printing press – as an assignment, because you wouldn’t do it for fun. It is a laborious task. One page of text can require many hours of fiddly, difficult work, especially when you’re not used to it. I felt that I really owned the end result. Copyright had long-since expired on the literary work that I copied – a poem (try laying that out by hand!). But copyright has layers, with these layers often spanning across a number of media. I certainly owned the copyright in the layout layer.

Washing dirty laundry in public courts disaster

Passing through the headlines in the last few weeks has been the story of Paul McCartney and Heather Mills’s finally-resolved divorce case. Lawyers must be cynics because the first thing that came to my head was the Beatles’ classic chorus: “We can work it out. We can work it ou-out!”

Always read the contract before signing

RTBM: Read the Bloody Manual. One of the greatest challenges in IT is fighting the urge to say this to difficult customers. In law, the equivalent is RTBC: Read the contract… before you sign it. Ignoring this golden rule was costly to the defendants in two recent High Court cases.

The customer is not always right

Even now, Holden and Ford fans still gripe about the travesty at Bathurst in 1991 and 1992 when the venerable V8 sedan cars got out-paced by new twin-turbo, 4WD Godzilla Nissan Skylines. The entry rules were changed after that to block out the Godzilla, because the V8s couldn’t keep up.