New bipartisan House legislation would give the Small Business Administration more power to work with the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice in cracking down on anticompetitive business practices.
The Main Street Competition Coalition (MSCC), a group representing small-business owners, is urging Congress to pass the bipartisan Main Street Competes Act (H.R. 5424), which was unanimously greenlighted by the House Small Business Committee. The bill, introduced by U.S. Reps. Hillary Scholten, D-Mich., and Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., would give the Small Business Administration (SBA) more power to work with the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice in cracking down on anticompetitive business practices. It would also enable the SBA to track antitrust enforcement and ensure that small businesses are competing on a level playing field.
“Members of the House Small Business Committee recognize that this is an urgent issue that transcends partisan politics, and it reaches out to the small businesses at the heart of Main Street America,” said Chris Jones, head of the MSCC and SVP and counsel at the Washington, D.C.-based National Grocers Association (NGA), the trade association representing the independent sector of the food distribution industry. “This bill will help put government watchdogs back on the job after decades of inactivity that have allowed the biggest businesses to exploit their market power by undercutting their competitors and trading partners. We’re hoping that members of Congress from both sides cast a vote for fairness and competition.”
“On behalf of America’s independent grocers, we applaud Reps. Blaine Luetkemeyer and Hillary Scholten for their forward-thinking leadership in tackling anticompetitive behavior that undermines the vitality of small businesses,” noted NGA president and CEO Greg Ferrara. “Antitrust laws such as the Robinson-Patman Act have languished without robust enforcement for a generation, exacting a heavy toll on independent community grocers, and felt both upstream and downstream, from agricultural producers to consumers. It’s only common sense that the Small Business Administration, as the champion of small businesses in the federal arena, critically assesses whether antitrust enforcement is fulfilling its fundamental objective of fostering a competitive landscape where Main Street businesses can thrive.”
The primary objective of the MSCC is to boost competition in retail and wholesale markets.
In other NGA news, the organization is expressing support for the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission bid to rewrite merger guidelines to prevent mergers that increase anticompetitive buyer power. In response to Justice Department and FTC requests for comments on the July 19 draft update of the merger guidelines, however, the NGA contended that the rules should go even further, to address the theories of harm that occur when increased buyer power becomes economic discrimination.
“After decades of unchecked grocery consolidation, large national chains like Kroger and Albertsons are merging, arguing they need the additional buyer power to remain successful against the big-box and e-commerce giants,” explained Jones. “The draft updated Merger Guidelines acknowledge the critical issue of buyer-side market power and its potential to undermine competition. In our comments to antitrust enforcers, NGA is reinforcing how constraints on buyer power will protect grocery competition and consumers.”