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Amazon, Walmart Among Companies Given 45 Days To Respond To FTC Probe Into Supply Chain Price Gouging

The Federal Trade Commission has ordered Walmart, Amazon, The Kroger Co. and six other large retailers, wholesalers and consumer goods suppliers to provide detailed information about how they are handling supply chain disruptions. The companies have 45 days to respond.


The probe isn't a criminal investigation, though the companies are required to respond. Rather, the agency says it wants the information to understand the supply chain problems that are harming the U.S. economy.

Besides merely understanding the situation, the FTC probe will also examine whether supply chain disruptions have led to specific bottlenecks, shortages or anticompetitive practices that contribute to rising consumer prices.

“Supply chain disruptions are upending the provision and delivery of a wide array of goods," FTC Chair Lina Khan said in a statement. "I am hopeful the FTC’s new study will shed light on market conditions and business practices that may have worsened these disruptions or led to asymmetric effects."

The FTC action isn't designed to ease the current supply chain snarls, but its findings could shape future regulatory actions, The Washington Post reports, citing antitrust specialists.

“We’ve had an incredible amount of consolidation in the supply chain," American Antitrust Institute President Diana Moss told the Post. "That’s why it’s been unable to withstand the kind of shock we’ve seen with the pandemic." 

The orders require the companies to detail reasons impeding their ability to obtain, transport and distribute their products, and whether these disruptions are causing delayed or canceled orders, increased costs or higher prices. The FTC also wants to know the steps the companies are taking to alleviate disruptions and how they allocate short-supply products among their stores.

As part of the order, the FTC is requiring the companies to turn over internal corporate documents regarding the supply chain disruptions, including strategies related to supply chains, pricing, costs, profit margins and sales volumes.

The other companies receiving the order are C&S Wholesale Grocers, Associated Wholesale Grocers, McLane Co., Procter & Gamble, Tyson Foods and The Kraft Heinz Co.