While the Thanksgiving grocery shopping rush may be over, grocery stores Kroger and Albertsons are still eagerly waiting to find out if the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will allow their proposed merger to proceed. After years of excessive inflation, the merger would unlock significant benefits for consumers: more product options, lower prices, and better customer service. Unfortunately, the FTC already appears to have made up its mind.
While the landmark deal is not expected to close until early 2024, it has already been reported that the FTC is not satisfied with the proposal, despite Kroger having agreed to divest over 400 stores in overlapping markets to C&S Wholesale Grocers. According to two sources with knowledge of the situation (including a former FTC policy director), the FTC will likely take Kroger and Albertsons to court. If true, the coming court battle will be unfortunate but not surprising.
Most legal experts believe the FTC is eager to flex its muscles in areas other than Big Tech. In recent years, the FTC has taken a much more aggressive approach to antitrust enforcement, inspired by the naive belief that everything “big is bad.” Under the leadership of Chair Lina Khan, the Commission has developed a penchant for challenging mergers with little success.
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Nate Scherer is a policy analyst with the American Consumer Institute, a nonprofit education and research organization. For more information about the Institute, visit us at www.TheAmericanConsumer.Org or follow us on Twitter (X) @ConsumerPal.