The antitrust watchdog is looking into whether supply chain disruptions are creating anti-competitive practices among businesses and contributing to higher prices for consumers.
The agency is not seeking this information for any specific law enforcement purposes. Instead, the FTC is sending these orders under a legal provision that allows it to conduct broad studies of competition. The companies have 45 days to respond.
The orders require the companies to turn over internal documents and information about the factors disrupting their ability to attain and deliver goods, increased costs and prices and the steps they are taking to minimize disruptions. The FTC also wants to know how they allocate products among stores when items are in short supply.
FTC Chair Lina Khan said in a statement that she hopes the study will “shed light on market conditions and business practices that may have worsened these disruptions and led to asymmetric effects.”
The National Grocers Association, a trade group for independent grocery stores and their wholesalers, has pushed for stronger antitrust enforcement throughout the past year. The group praised the FTC’s 4-0 vote in favor of conducting the study.
The Grocers Association hopes the FTC study will lead the agency to “soon rein in the destructive anticompetitive tactics that have been ignored by federal agencies for decades,” Chris Jones, the trade group’s senior vice president of government relations and counsel, said in a statement Tuesday.