Portland/ Retail & Industry
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Published on February 27, 2024
Oregon AG, FTC, and States Launch Legal Battle Against Kroger-Albertsons Merger Over Competition ConcernsSource: Facebook/Kroger

In a concerted move to block what they see as a threat to competition and consumers' wallets, Oregon's Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum has sided with the Federal Trade Commission and a cadre of state attorneys general to halt the proposed $24.6 billion marriage of grocery giants Kroger and Albertsons, a merger that could consolidate two of the nation's grocery behemoths into a single entity, the two chains together operate 176 stores in Oregon alone, with Kroger brandishing 51 Fred Meyer outlets in addition to 4 QFC locations, while Albertsons boasts 96 Safeway and 25 namesake stores saturating nearly every community across the state.

Rosenblum voiced her concerns, telling media “We believe this proposed merger would hurt both, and we’re doing our part to prevent it from going forward.” a sentiment echoed by the FTC which joined forces with states including Arizona, California, District of Columbia, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, and Wyoming, have filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Portland, reports Z100 Portland, the FTC argues the deal could trigger increased grocery costs during a period where consumers are already grappling with a steady uptick in food prices over recent years.

Kroger's rebuttal to the FTC’s stance was clear-cut—it claims the merger is a crucial strategic move to stay afloat in an increasingly competitive market dominated by heavyweights like Walmart, Costco, and Amazon, arguing that "This decision only strengthens larger, non-unionized retailers like Walmart, Costco and Amazon by allowing them to further increase their overwhelming and growing dominance of the grocery industry," according to a Kroger spokesperson in a statement obtained by OPB.

The crux of the pushback centers on the Clayton Act, which prohibits acquisitions likely to lessen competition significantly, and the lawsuit spearheaded by Oregon and the FTC alleges precisely that, such a merger which the defendant companies had sought to soften with a proposal to offload up to 650 stores seems woefully insufficient in restoring the balance, the FTC contends that this measure falls far short of mitigating the lost competition between Kroger and Albertsons" casting a skeptical eye on the merger that they claim funds Kroger's ascent to monopoly status at the expense of consumer choice and worker livelihood, a local element factors into the discord given that Kroger-owned Fred Meyer has its roots in Portland since 1922, highlighted in reports by The Outlook Online.