The Commerce Commission has issued an official warning to Panasonic, with the watchdog having found that the local subsidiary of Japanese electronics giant was engaging in retail price maintenance.
An investigation by ComCom led to the warning, as the watchdog noted that Panasonic had withheld supply of televisions to two unnamed retailers that offered the sets at a price less than what the Japanese company specified.
Panasonic is also said to have supplied TVs to a retailer on terms less favourable than those for other outlets, again because of sets being sold at less than the specified price.
Enforcing or trying to enforce a minimum price for on-sale meets the definition of retail price maintenance, and is illegal in New Zealand under the Commerce Act 1986.
The regulatory watchdog has also sent an open letter to to consumer electronics wholesalers and retailers, reiterating that retail price maintenance is illegal.
If the courts decide that a business has breached the Commerce Act, penalties can be imposed on individuals and companies.
Individuals can be fined up to $500,000 and be banned from being company directors.
Companies can be fined $10 million, or three times the commercial gain resulting from the breach, whichever's the greatest amount.
ComCom notes that four TV makers, Sony, Panasonic, LG and Samsung have around 90 per cent of the market in New Zealand, with Harvey Norman and Noel Leeming accounting for approximately 60 per cent of sales.