After unchallenged Amazon-Whole Foods merger, competition remains 'robust,' former FTC chief says

11 September 2018 3:49pm

7 September 2018. By Richard Vanderford.

A year after Amazon's acquisition of the grocery chain Whole Foods, the former head of the Federal Trade Commission defended the agency's decision not to challenge the merger, saying that competition in the space has thrived since the deal.

Following the $13.7 billion merger, Whole Foods has operated as it did previously, though with lower prices in some cases, and invigorated competition is leading to more options for consumers, Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen said Friday at a conference in New York.* Ohlhausen served as the agency’s acting chairman from January 2017 until May.

"We are seeing rivals adjusting to this new reality, beefing up their own home delivery offerings, and investing in the modernization of their own supply chains to defend their existing positions from a new, nimble, and well-heeled rival," Ohlhausen said.

Ohlhausen noted that the FTC's decision not to challenge the tie-up brought criticism from some, but said competition "remains robust" and in some ways has become "even more intense" since the transaction. One Washington-based magazine in March called this period the "golden age of grocery shopping," she said. "I put that one in my scrapbook," Ohlhausen said.

Ohlhausen has previously defended the independence of the agency, including against perceptions that it answers to President Donald Trump, who has been loudly hostile to Amazon and its CEO, Jeff Bezos.

*45th Annual Conference on International Antitrust Law and Policy, Fordham University School of Law, New York, Sept. 5-7, 2018.

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