How NZ Corporates can Damage Your Small NZ Import Business
Reporter: Lisa Wilson is on the line with me now. Good day, Lisa.
Lisa Wilson: How are you doing?
Reporter: Hey, now look just for a start. So customs held up your shipment because it contained Weetabix. Is that correct?
Lisa Wilson: Yes, that’s right.
Reporter: And did they do this of their own bet? Or did they do it in response to a complaint?
Lisa Wilson: So Sanitarium found out that there’s Weetabix on the container and asked customs to detain it. So our container got held up for a week at port until a custom’s officer could come out and inspect the container being unloaded.
Reporter: Hey, so how did they found out there were Weetabix in the container?
Lisa Wilson: Well, they’ve got a border protection law on any wheat-based cereal that comes in. They are able to ring up and ask, “What it is?” And, obviously, Weetabix is a big no-no to them.
Reporter: See, I’ve had a number of texts and calls in this morning saying you’ve seen it for sale around different places.
Lisa Wilson: Yes, so they try and come to an agreement with you to score out the word Weetabix, like label over it. And they’ll let you sell on the shelf if you agree with their terms and conditions and whatever else they ask you to agree with.
Reporter: Have you thought about agreeing with them?
Lisa Wilson: No, because it was going to go to the high court a few years ago with the previous owner. And they dropped out of the case. From what I’ve heard from the previous owner, they backed down because they knew they didn’t really have a leg to stand on. And, according to the trademark lawyer, the border protection law that they’ve got was given out on the wrong caseload. So a judge would most likely overturn it as it went to court.
Reporter: All right. Okay. So it’s you against– so customs held it up for a week, it took them a week to even come and look at your container?
Lisa Wilson: Yeah. So what happens is when it gets off the port, the shippers then go up to– I think it’s the electronic booking they do on the customs website . And then customs rang up and give you a date that they’ll come out and have look at it. So they came out, yeah, not yesterday or the but the day before I think it was.
Reporter: So you get held up. I mean, do you feel as though they are bullying you? Is that right?
Lisa Wilson: Yes, I feel like it’s quite unfair. We’re just a small business. We kind of are targeting different people who have completely different customers. Weetabix isn’t sold in supermarkets so it’s not side-by-side with their product, or anything like that. It tastes different and the box is completely different. So we’re just trying to bring a taste of home for British ex-pats and–
Reporter: Yeah. I mean, is Sanitarium allowed to sell Weet-Bix in the UK?
Lisa Wilson: Yes. So after speaking with another radio station yesterday I accidentally agreed well– within they said so that they can’t sell it in the UK. But I did a little bit of research and it turns out there’s a couple websites over there that you can buy it on. So they do sell their Weet-Bix in the UK.
Reporter: Have you had much support?
Lisa Wilson: Plenty, we’ve had lots of our British ex-pats, obviously, supporting us. We came in this morning to the shops to thousands of messages on the answering machine of support from customers and our Facebook page is blowing up with support. Also, a few articles have gone up already. We’ve had some Kiwis backing us as well, which is pretty cool. Just saying, “Support the little guys.” And, yeah.
Reporter: Yeah. People do not like big organisations picking on small ones. It’s not the Kiwi way, we just don’t like it. So at the moment, you’ve got your container?
Lisa Wilson: Yeah, so they released the rest of our goods which was great. Because, obviously, everything in that container is paid for and we’ve been waiting for it for eight weeks to get halfway around the world. So the Weetabix, although, is still detained. Which is really frustrating because we’ve already paid for that product and it’s just sat on the shipper’s warehouse–
Reporter: On what grounds are they holding it?
Lisa Wilson: Trademark grounds against Weet-Bix.
Reporter: Okay, okay. Say, [jeebs], you would have thought customs had a few more important things to do, quite frankly, like meth.
Lisa Wilson: Yes, when they spoke to me on the phone that’s pretty much what they get across at. They’ve got better things to chase, like drugs than cereal.
Reporter: Oh, so this is frustrating for customs as well?
Lisa Wilson: Yes, pretty much. And they just can’t believe that it’s getting brought up again, really. Because it’s already happened a few years back. So.
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