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Commerce Commission warns businesses about misleading Easter surcharges

Easter Saturday and Sunday are not public holidays, casual staff may not be covered under the Holidays Act and businesses must not mislead customers when applying a surcharge.

That’s the message the Commerce Commission wants to reinforce with businesses, such as cafes and bars, contemplating opening over Easter.

Commission General Manager Competition, Kate Morrison says it’s easy to think that the four days over the Easter period are all public holidays when they are not.

“Easter Saturday and Sunday are not public holidays and traders should not apply a surcharge to compensate for higher wages on those days.”

“Businesses should also be aware that they may not be able to apply a surcharge if staff working on Good Friday and Easter Monday are casual and therefore not being paid extra under the Holidays Act regulations,” said Ms Morrison.

Ms Morrison says this is a regular battle with some in the business community who are either prepared to flout the law or have not made themselves aware of the Act.

“Businesses can charge what they want and consumers can then make a decision to shop there. But it would be misleading under the Fair Trading Act to apply a surcharge on Saturday and Sunday and claim it was due to the Holidays Act.”

Easter trading laws need overhaul - ACT
Easter trading laws are outdated and in need of a major overhaul, ACT leader Jamie Whyte says.

"This weekend thousands of businesses will be closed, liquor sales will be banned, and countless Kiwis will be denied the right to work.

"Retailers are fed up. Consumers are fed up. Yet this nanny-statism continues, without any clear justification," Mr Whyte says.

"Laws that dictate when businesses can and cannot operate are a relic of Muldoonism. In the year 2014, the right to work and trade year-round should be a given.

"Religious reasons for shutting down the country and banning liquor sales are no longer relevant to New Zealand's increasingly diverse society. No one who chooses to refrain from working or shopping is forced to do so.

"Some businesses will ignore the law and open anyway - the state has never enforced these overcomplicated laws consistently. Other businesses who could open legally will close down, unable to afford inflated labour costs.

"Consumers will find themselves in a time-warp, a return to the days of government paternalism.

"If the government insists on robbing the economy of two days of productivity, there ought to be a good reason.

"It's time for a national conversation about our archaic Easter trading laws. ACT will be pushing for an overhaul."

What do you think? Do Easter trading laws need an overhaul? Click here to vote in our subscriber-only business pulse poll.

Comments and questions

Casual staff working on Good Friday or Easter Monday are not entitled to a day in lieu but they are entitled to time and a half for all hours worked. Therefore staffing costs are higher and a surcharge can be justified. Maybe Kate Morrison should actually check the legislation before she makes herself look stupid?

Good on Jamie Whyte for drawing attention to this anacronism;it should be fixed forthwith.
This shows the value of bringing a fresh mind to the question,to hopefully jolt the old tired minds out of their time-honoured grooves.

Hardly a relic of Muldoonism, Jamie. Trading restrictions predate the Muldoon years by decades.

What is wrong with staff and management working things out for themselves?

Staff should have the right to have Fri/Mon off, but they also should have the right to work Fri/Mon on freely negotiated terms.
It is a shame, and just a little ironic, that something Jesus fought so hard for, freedom for all, should be denied too so many at Easter, by State regulation .

Fortunately most New Zealanders won't be voting for Jamie Whyte's secular religious beliefs at the polls. Instead of shoving his fundamentalist views down people's throats maybe he could come up with some real reasons to vote for ACT. But, we'd prefer to live in a western style democracy so ACT has nothing to offer. Housing affordability? Balance of payments? White flight? Who cares what you have to say about Muldoon - half of Auckland haven't even heard of him because they were living in China in 1984. The day your party can get as many votes as Muldoon will be the day anyone listens to you. Until then, stick to being a bunch of irrelevant old white people who Australia won't give residency to. Happy Easter and God bless you.

what I don't understand is why the retail don,t charge a surcharge. quite the opposite they have sales and change less. the shops were full today with people carrying bags and bags full of goods. I wonder how the food and beverage did?