FTC approves Amazon's acquisition of Whole Foods

By Ray Downs   |   Aug. 23, 2017 at 8:34 PM
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Aug. 23 (UPI) -- The Federal Trade Commission announced Wednesday it will not interfere with Amazon's purchase of Whole Foods, giving antitrust approval to the online retail giant's largest acquisition.

Bruce Hoffman, the acting director of the Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Competition, said in a statement that the FTC conducted an investigation into the deal and found that Amazon's $13.7 billion purchase of the grocery chain did not constitute "an unfair method of competition."

"Based on our investigation we have decided not to pursue this matter further. Of course, the FTC always has the ability to investigate anticompetitive conduct should such action be warranted," Hoffman said.

Norm Armstrong, an antitrust lawyer at King & Spalding LLP in Washington, told Bloomberg that the FTC approved the deal because Amazon and Whole Foods are not close competitors.

"When you combine the two, the question is whether it will substantially lessen competition or have an anticompetitive effect on the marketplace," Armstrong said. "The answer is no."

The deal has come under criticism by consumer advocates, who say that Amazon, already the largest retailer in the United States, will gain an unprecedented position in the American retail industry.

"Amazon's purchase of Whole Foods will expand its dominance and heighten conflicts of interest," wrote Lina M. Khan, a legal fellow with the Open Markets Program at New America, a consumer watchdog group. "Prime memberships will enable Amazon to extend its online dominance into physical retail -- using stores for pick-up, for example -- and to use physical stores to entrench its power online."

She added: "By bundling services and integrating grocery stores into its logistics network, the company will be able to shut out or disfavor rival grocers and food delivery services."

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