Easter trading issues hop back into spotlight

Easter trading issues hop back into spotlight

This Easter, the Commerce Commission is warning businesses that any additional surcharges must be clearly disclosed, with the reason for the surcharge given.

Businesses are routinely using surcharges to recover additional costs, such as higher staff wages for public holidays, says commissioner Anna Rawlings.

Public holiday surcharges can be applied on Good Friday and Easter Monday. Easter Sunday is not a public holiday.

“Ultimately a business can charge what it likes for its products or services and consumers will make their own decisions about whether to pay or go elsewhere,” says Ms Rawlings. “However, if a surcharge is applied, it must be clearly disclosed and the reason for the surcharge must not mislead customers.”

Meanwhile, critics say a bill going through Parliament won't solve the issues around Easter trading.

The Shop Trading Hours Amendment Bill, which allows councils to pass bylaws allowing trading on Easter Sunday, is currently before a select committee and is expected to pass later this year.

Cameron Brewer, a local body politician from Auckland, says it won't fix the issue of Good Friday trading and unfair exemptions that allow shops in some tourist towns to open but not others.

He says it will be expensive and difficult for councils to administer.

“By allowing each and every TLA [Territorial Land Authority] in the country to establish different Easter trading bylaws, some may argue central government is simply passing the buck on a tricky topic,” says Mr Brewer. “It creates significant costs while lumping yet another responsibility on councils far exceeding their traditional role.”

Many garden centres opened on Good Friday, saying they were meeting public demand.

"Mucking around with Easter Sunday won't change the annual Good Friday fiasco," Mr Brewer says.

Auckland Council will have to consult with 21 local boards, key stakeholders and business and community groups and any resulting by-laws will have to be revisited every five years.

"Why not just relook at the historic exemptions and work with the likes of tourism districts concerned," he said.

The Greens say everyone should have time off to spend with their family on Easter Sunday.

"National's plan to let local councils decide whether shops can open on Easter Sunday passes the buck to local councils and the cost of change to ratepayers, and undermines working people,” says Green Party workplace relations spokeswoman Denise Roche.