Monday, December 29, 2008

Independent grocers ask for R-P enforcement

The National Grocers Association sent President-elect Obama a wish list that includes a request that he push the Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department to enforce antitrust laws against their bigger rivals:
Consistent and balanced enforcement of our nation’s antitrust laws, including the Robinson-Patman Act, is especially important to ensure a level competitive playing field for entrepreneurial businesses. N.G.A. encourages you to appoint a Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission and Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust that will enforce the law in a consistent and balanced manner. A level playing field provides the appropriate marketplace environment where diversity thrives and consumers are well served with an abundance of choices.
I have mixed feelings on R-P enforcement: I agree with the NGA that there are serious abuses in trade promo and other channel practices, but I have doubts about R-P itself, which surely ranks among the most poorly-written major pieces of legislation ever (in the famous Fred Meyer decision, the Supreme Court wrote, "Conceding that the Robinson-Patman amendments by no means represent an exemplar of legislative clarity ..."). It's tough to comply with a law that no one quite understands.

An overhaul of R-P would be the ideal solution, but I have a hard time foreseeing that happening.

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