Saturday, July 20, 2024

AG Ferguson files lawsuit to stop Kroger-Albertson merger worth $24.6 billion


OLYMPIA - Kroger and Albertsons claim a proposed merger worth $24.6 billion will result in better prices for grocery shoppers, but many fear food prices will go up and jobs could be lost as the stores eliminate competition. 

Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit to stop the merger, which was announced in a Seattle press conference Jan. 15. 

“Our job is to make sure there is a level playing field for Washington consumers and that means pushing back against the consolidation of power that destroys free enterprise and harms Washingtonians,” Ferguson said. 

Once they merge, Kroger and Albertsons propose to sell 413 stores nationwide, including 104 in Washington. That part of the proposal is meant to counter claims they will control the market if the merger goes through. Kroger and Albertsons alone have more than 700,000 employees and nearly 5,000 stores across 49 states. Experts say Washington could be one of the most affected states. 

“More than half of all supermarkets in Washington are currently owned by either Kroger or Albertsons,” Ferguson said. 

After reviewing hundreds of thousands of records, Ferguson’s legal team uncovered internal chats among corporate executives and other employees.

Ferguson said a vice president of marketing with Albertsons wrote: “You are basically creating a monopoly in grocery with the merger.”

“This makes no sense, prices will not go down,” Ferguson said. “Grocery prices are already too high. These companies are merging so they can increase profits, not help Washingtonians with their grocery bills.”

The official merger website claims the companies are keeping everyday prices affordable on products customers love, want and need while making grocery shopping easy.

And they say the merger is necessary if the grocery companies want to compete against even larger competitors, like Amazon and Walmart.

If approved, the companies say they will develop a “zero hunger, zero waste,” impact plan for hunger relief, donated meals and innovation fund grants.

Kroger owns QFC and Fred Meyer and is based in Cincinnati. It wants to acquire Albertsons, based in Boise, Idaho, which owns Safeway and Haggen grocery stores.

The merger is under consideration by the Federal Trade Commission. A decision is anticipated in August 2024.


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