Commission probed Fletcher in Christchurch, but found nothing

Attempts by the Commerce Commission to investigate reports of anti-competitive behaviour by Fletcher Building in Christchurch failed to come up with evidence, Commission chairman Dr Mark Berry told the Commerce select committee on Thursday.

Berry said both he and CERA head Roger Sutton had heard "stories about anti-competitive behaviour concerning tying or bundling of materials by a large merchant in Christchurch."

"I have been in close contact with Roger Sutton about concerns both Roger and I have heard regarding Fletcher Building's position in the Christchurch market. I have offered to go to Christchurch to meet with participants in the building industry who have concerns and that offer still stands. Roger Sutton advises me that despite his attempts to find persons wishing to record a complaint and to discuss it with me, he has yet to find anybody."

Commerce Commission staff were sent to Christchurch and spoke with five residential building companies, master builders and a significant buyer of construction services, Berry said.

"The outcome of those conversations is that none of those builders actually said they had those problems. There were other viable suppliers, namely Carters and ITM. So we had taken steps to follow up what we were hearing and the evidence we gathered did not support those allegations."

Berry concluded by saying that the doors of the Commission were open to anyone wanting to come forward and speak confidentially.

The Commerce Commission filed proceedings in the High Court on Thursday against Carter Holt Harvey (CHH), for price fixing in the Auckland timber market. The Commission alleges that CHH entered into an understanding with Fletcher Distribution (part of Fletcher Building) to fix prices in respect of the supply of structural timber to commercial customers. Fletcher Distribution notified the Commission of the alleged agreement and has been cooperating with the investigation.