The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently approved a merger between office-supply chain Staples and Essendant, one of just two national wholesale companies upon which independent office products dealers rely — giving control of this important supplier to one of their biggest competitors.
In joint comments submitted to the FTC following the agency’s decision, members of the Advocates for Independent Business (AIB) Coalition voiced concern about this merger, which will harm independent office products dealers and set a dangerous precedent for similar mergers in other industries.
The letter specifically outlines how this decision hurts competition and consumers and argues it illustrates a dangerous pattern of the FTC approving vertical mergers proposed by large corporations or the private equity firms managing them, with grave implications for independent businesses:
“We write today to comment on the Federal Trade Commission’s recent approval of the merger between Staples and Essendant. We believe this merger should not have been approved. It imperils independent office supply dealers (including those represented by one of our member organizations), harms competition and consumers, and furthers a dangerous pattern of approving vertical mergers that allow large corporations to foreclose their smaller competitors.”
Moving forward, the letter recommends the agency act aggressively to put important safeguards in place as the Staples-Essendant merger proceeds. It asks the FTC to monitor the impacts of this merger and intervene to prevent anti-competitive behavior, as necessary.
Lastly, AIB members urge the FTC to review its approach to vertical mergers and adopt more rigorous guidelines when evaluating such deals.
AIB members that signed onto these comments include the American Booksellers Association, American Specialty Toy Retailing Association, Brixy, Independent Office Products & Furniture Dealers Association, and the Running Industry Association.
In addition to these most recent comments, AIB members have jointly submitted letters calling on the Federal Trade Commission to regulate Amazon’s growing market power in 2018, Congress to strengthen antitrust enforcement, such as those sent to Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s office in 2017, and the U.S. General Services Administration in early 2018, in support of fair and open e-commerce platforms.
Advocates for Independent Business (AIB) is a coalition of 10 national trade associations that collectively represent tens of thousands of independent businesses across the country. Together, our member businesses employ hundreds of thousands of people, serve millions of consumers, and are an important part of the economic vitality of their communities and regions.