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Vehicles cause headache for consumers

Around one in five people reported they have experienced motor vehicle-related purchase issues from both private sellers and dealers.

Purchasing or servicing motor vehicles was among the highest reported consumer issues in survey initiated by Consumer Protection.

The report has kick-started an awareness campaign to help consumers understand their rights, what questions to ask, and what steps they should take after purchasing their vehicle.

“For a lot of Kiwis, shopping for a car can be quite stressful. We’re seeing they might not know what questions to ask pre-purchase, or what to do if something goes wrong post-purchase,” says Consumer Protection Manager Mark Hollingsworth.

“We surveyed more than 1,200 New Zealanders to gain a better understanding of what the common consumer pitfalls are, and what consumers know about their rights in those situations.

“We found around one in five people reported they either experienced motor vehicle-related purchase issues from both private sellers and dealers, or issues with vehicle repair and maintenance providers. Those who experienced issues were predominantly between 18 – 36 years of age, families with young children, or of Maori or Pacific ethnicity.”

“What’s more, half of those who reported an issue with their vehicle purchase didn’t take any action to resolve it.”

By utilising the survey’s findings, the campaign contains the latest and most accurate information, ensuring the best advice and tips for both buyers and sellers.

“Our main message to consumers is to do your homework before buying a motor vehicle, which is usually a significant purchase. For example, have the vehicle mechanically checked and know what you should be looking for during a test drive,” says Mr Hollingsworth.

“If something goes wrong, most providers want to put things right. It pays to first return to the place you purchased or serviced the vehicle, and there are always other options if an acceptable resolution can’t be found.”

A pre-purchase checklist can be found with other information resources on the Buying, maintaining and renting a car webpage.

For more information visit www.consumerprotection.govt.nz.

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Job opportunities increase

Job opportunities for labourers and machinery drivers are on the up according to recent figures from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).

As of September 2017, there was a steady increase of 0.4 per cent and 9.6 per cent increase in job advertisements over the whole year.

Labourer occupations have risen by 1.1 per cent and machinery driver roles increased by 0.9 per cent. Overall, the largest increase was in the low-skilled occupation (up 0.5 per cent).

Over the month, the strongest growth was in Otago/Southland (up 1.3 per cent), followed by Gisborne/Hawke’s Bay (up 0.9 per cent).

“Over the year, the number of vacancies increased in all ten regions,” says MBIE’s Labour Market Trends manager Nita Zodgekar.

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NZ job ads remain steady

Growth in online job advertisements has been steady in June at 0.5 per cent, compared to 10.6 per cent over the year, according to the latest Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) Jobs Online report.

MBIE’s Labour Market Trends acting manager Stuart King says the biggest increases in online job vacancy listings were in the hospitality and tourism (up 1.2 per cent), and accounting, human resources, legal and administration (up 0.7 per cent) industries.

The largest increases were for machinery drivers (up 3.1 per cent) and labourers (up 2.6 per cent). Overall, the largest increases were in the unskilled (up 2.0 per cent), semi-skilled (up 1.5 per cent) and low-skilled (up 1.2 per cent) occupations.

“While overall growth in vacancies is steady, the data is pointing to rising demand for machinery drivers and labourers, and in regions outside Auckland, Wellington and Canterbury,” King says.

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Hamilton dealer fined $65,000

A Hamilton dealer and importer has been ordered to pay $65,000 in penalties by the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) after a Labour Inspectorate investigation found employment breaches.

Direct Auto Importers (NZ) Ltd and Cheap Deals on Wheels Limited had both failed to pay employees minimum wage and correct holiday pay. The companies also didn’t supply employment agreements or records.  

Vishaal Sharma, the sole director and shareholder of both companies, claimed the staff members were contractors, and he therefore didn’t owe them minimum employment entitlements.

This claim was strongly rejected by the Labour Inspectorate and the ERA.

“An employer cannot avoid their obligations by simply calling their employees ‘contractors’, and any attempts to do so will not be tolerated by the Inspectorate,” says Labour Inspectorate regional manager Loua Ward.

“All employees in New Zealand must be provided with written employment agreements and their minimum employment entitlements, such as the minimum wage and holiday pay. If an employer cannot meet these basic obligations, then they should not be an employer.”

Ward said that as Direct Auto Imports (NZ) has previously been charged with $17,996 in arrears by the ERA, Sharma should have been aware of his obligations as an employer, and “ignorance is not an acceptable excuse.”

Direct Auto Importers (NZ) Ltd was penalised $50,000 for failing to provide holiday pay, written employment agreements and wage, holiday and leave records for three employees. The ERA ordered further $726 in arrears to be paid to two staff members for working on public holidays and holiday pay owed.

Cheap Deals on Wheels Ltd was penalised $15,000 for similar offences.

The authority has also set aside $10,000 in penalties to be provided to three former employees of the two companies.

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Study finds fuel prices may not be reasonable

The Fuel Market Financial Performance study, commissioned by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment following public pressure regarding petrol prices in New Zealand has found that prices may be unfair, although constraints of data meant the report was unable to reach a definite conclusion.

The 118-page report gathered data from major fuel companies, including BP, Mobil and Z Energy, and some information from independent company Gull and industry participants, such as suppliers. Analysts sought to conclude whether fuel prices were reasonable, what regional factors could explain nationwide disparities in price, and if there was any evidence of cross-subsidisation between the product and the market.

“We can indeed identify features of the New Zealand fuel industry possibly giving cause for concern that consumers are not as well served as they could be,” the report said, “but with the information and time available it has not been possible to be more definitive, nor could we assess whether the benefits of all of those measures exceed their costs.”

“This causes us to conclude that we cannot definitely say that fuel prices in New Zealand are reasonable, but we have reason to believe that they might not be.”

Data collected from the industry found that retail gross margins have increased significantly during the period studied, and in some cases, the Return on Average Capital Employed (ROACE), had doubled between 2012 and 2017.

A weakening competitive intensity, a shift towards greater product differentiation and a rise in independent retailers were cited as the most likely causes for this rapid increase in price, and the report suggested several methods to mitigate this rise, including the removal of Z Energy’s Main Port Price on its website, and a possible liquid wholesale market in selected regions.

Regional pricing was also singled out, and the report found a lack of competition was most likely to blame for high margins in Wellington and the South Island, and that a new competitor would struggle to enter the market due to low population density and high distribution costs.

“This is a very complex area and the Study takes us a significant step forward in our understanding, said Energy and Resources Minister Judith Collins.

“I have now instructed my officials to assess the recommendations of the Study and report back to me by November.”

Collins thanked Z Energy, BP, Mobil and Gull for participating in the study.

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Job ads hold firm in May

Hospitality and tourism overtook construction as the fastest-growing job industry in May.

Online job advertisements again held steady in May, with a 0.6 increase last month leading to an 11.8 per cent increase over the year, according to the latest Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) report.

The May report also included a seasonal adjustment for April figures, up from 0.1 per cent growth to 0.7 per cent.

MBIE’s labour market trends manager Nita Zodgekar says the biggest increases in May were in the hospitality and tourism (up 1.6 per cent), and construction and engineering (up 1.4 per cent) industries. The fastest growing occupation was ‘machinery drivers’ (up 2.6 per cent).

Vacancies increased in five out of eight industry groups, and the biggest fall was in information technology, down 1.5 per cent. Sales, retail, marketing and advertising jobs remained relatively flat, down 0.1 per cent.

“Overall, growth in vacancies is steady, while growth is strong for construction and hospitality jobs,” Zodgekar added.

The number of job advertisements online increased in all 10 regions, with the biggest growth felt in Nelson/Tasman/Marlborough/West Coast, up 2.3 per cent. Second was Otago/Southland, up 1.2 per cent, followed by the Waikato and Bay of Plenty, both up one per cent.  

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Job ads hold steady in April

construction continues to ignite the job market

Online job advertisements held steady in April, up just 0.1 per cent, according to the latest Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) report. 

This brings the annual increase to 11.7 per cent.

Industries that saw increases include construction and engineering, up two per cent month-to-month, and hospitality and tourism, up 1.7 per cent. Sales, retail, marketing and advertising remained flat at 0.1 per cent. Five of the eight industries surveyed had increasing job ad numbers last month.

Construction and engineering also had the highest annual increase, up 17.2 per cent between April 2016 and April 2017. This was followed by hospitality and tourism, up 16.2 per cent. Sales, retail, marketing and advertising job ads are up 10.4 per per cent for the year, slightly below the national average growth. 

Information technology job ads continue to drop, down 0.3 per cent for the month and 14 per cent for the year.

Within occupation groups, labourers saw the highest increase, with job ads up 1.7 per cent in April. This was followed by clerical and administration, up 1.3 per cent, and machinery drivers and operators, up 0.9 per cent month-on-month.

The occupation group with the highest yearly growth in job ads was machinery drivers, up 26 per cent, followed by labourers, up 18.9 per cent, and sales, up 15.8 per cent for the year. 

“Increased building activity and visitor numbers are reflected in increased advertisements for construction and hospitality jobs. Overall, job advertisements were steady in April, following a period of above-average growth,” says labour market trends manager Nita Zodgekar.

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Nortland petrol station to pay $28,500

A Northland petrol station is to pay $28,500 for committing serious breaches of employment law after an investigation by the Labour Inspectorate.

IXL Petroleum and Gas Limited, trading as a G.A.S station on State Highway 1 in Ruakaka, failed to pay at least the minimum wage, correct holiday pay, and was found to have made unlawful deductions.

“Every person employed in New Zealand must be provided with their minimum employment entitlements – anything less is unacceptable,” says Labour Inspectorate regional manager Loua Ward.

The Employment Relations Authority has issued a $14,000 penalty to IXL Petroleum and Gas Limited, and $14,500 in arrears, which were paid out to four employees.

“One staff member regularly had their wages deducted – with the employer paying them for 20 hours per week, despite their own records showing the employee worked significantly longer hours,” says Ward.

“Another employee reported being charged for customer drive offs and the employer seeking a premium in exchange for supporting their visa – both of which are illegal in New Zealand.”

Ward said that other franchisors should take note and ensure that their franchisees are meeting minimum employment standards.

 “Not only do these cases mean penalties, if consumers don’t believe you pay your employees appropriately it can damage the brand as a whole,” she said.

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Job ads rise in March

Online job advertisements grew by 1.3 per cent in March, and 14.2 per cent over the entire year, according to the latest Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) Jobs Online report.

MBIE’s labour market trends manager Nita Zodgekar said growth this month was spread across all skill levels and occupation groups.

“This month’s growth follows the positive streak in the past quarter, with strong growth seen in rural regions,” she added.

Vacancies increased in six out of eight industry groups, including sales, retail, marketing and advertising, with the only fall in information technology.

All occupation groups saw vacancy increases, with the largest growth in technician and trade workers and sales jobs, both up 1.3 per cent.

Job ad growth was spread out across all ten regions of New Zealand, with the highest increases found in Nelson/Tasman/Marlborough/West Coast, up three per cent, and Otago/Southland, up 1.9 per cent.

Year-on-year, vacancies in the Nelson/Tasman/Marlborough/West Coast region were up 28.8 per cent. The Waikato was second, up 27.5 per cent, followed by Otago/Southland, up 24.1 per cent.

Canterbury had the lowest year-on-year growth, up 2.5 per cent compared to March 2016.

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Auckland valet fined $241,000

A South Auckland auto valet has been ordered to pay $241,451.66 in penalties and arrears by the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), after an investigation found employment law had been seriously breached.

“For six years or more Manukau Auto Valet Limited deprived some 221 employees of their most basic employment entitlements, failing to pay at least a minimum wage, or holiday pay to employees leaving the company,” says Labour Inspectorate regional manager Loua Ward.

The valet company has paid $96,451 in arrears to MBIE for the 221 affected employees, and has been ordered to pay a further $145,000 in penalties after the Inspectorate took the vase to the Employment Relations Authority (ERA).

A complaint was first laid on September 2015, and the Inspectorate lodged the first statement of problem 12 months later.

Manukau Auto Valet Limited director and major shareholder Dharmesh Kumar pleaded ignorance during the hearing, but the ERA decided this was not a mitigating factor.

ERA authority member Vicky Campbell agreed and said it was the obligation of all employers to follow the law.

MBIE is encouraging anyone who worked at Manukau Auto Valet Limited in the past six years to get in contact, as they may be owed wage arrears.

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MBIE reports good petrol quality in NZ

The latest fuel testing report released by Trading Standards at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has been positive, with petrol quality high across the country.

Trading Standards tested samples from 115 stations across New Zealand at the Independent Petroleum Laboratory between July 2015 and 2016. “While the fuel industry completes its own testing, Trading Standards at [MBIE] carries out independent testing of petrol, diesel and biofuels to give consumers added peace of mind,” Trading Standards manager Stephen O’Brien said.

The rate of suspect fuel samples decreased from 10 examples in the previous year to eight, with three suspect petrol and five suspect diesel results, and all samples were declared within tolerance levels after further analysis.

“On the whole, our testing found fuel sold within New Zealand was of a good quality and compliant with specifications prescribed in the regulations,” O’Brien said.

The latest test results from MBIE are part of an ongoing testing programme of the 1200 petrol stations across New Zealand.

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