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Sex workers are calling on the Commerce Commission to investigate the sex worker online advertising business. Online escort directories are the main way sex workers advertise their services, and one, NZ Girls, is being accused of anti-competitive behaviour. Adult advertising website NZ Pleasures says NZ Girls holds about 90 percent of the market and abuses its market power by not letting its customers advertise on other sites.
She has started an online petition to gauge how much support was out there for an investigation to get underway. Steve Crow who operates another directory, Girl 4U, has taken the same complaint to the Commission before, he said.
He said there was no way NZ Girls would insist on exclusive advertising if it did not have a dominance in the market and was doing so because it could get away with it. They're just basically, 'that's the way it is, those are rules and the girls can take it or leave it'. Several complaints have been made to the Commission about NZ Girls over the last 10 years. NZ Pleasures' most recent complaint was not looked into, with the Commission saying it did not believe NZ Girls had a substantial degree of market power.
Mr Crow, who has been involved in the industry for 25 years, said the complaints had not been taken seriously. Sharon said it was worth another shot and said she was hopeful a thorough investigation would be done. Barrister John Land, who specialises in competition law, said there were three tests to check whether Section 36 had been breached: whether someone had a substantial degree of power; if they took advantage of their market power; and if they were acting in an anti-competitive way.
Dame Catherine Healy from the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective said it encouraged sex workers to advertise through as many avenues as possible. Cracker, used by New Zealand escorts, was one of many subsidiary sites off Backpage.