Two Democratic Alaska lawmakers are urging the Federal Trade Commission to block a proposed merger between grocery giants Kroger and Albertsons.
Reps. Ivy Spohnholz and Zack Fields co-chair the Alaska House Committee on Labor and Commerce, and on Oct. 31 they sent a letter to FTC Chair Lina Khan requesting the intervention.
In Anchorage, the two primary grocery chains are Carrs and Fred Meyer, which are owned by Albertsons and Kroger, respectively. Fields said those stores are also the main competitors in Alaska’s next four biggest cities.
“And these stores are today, the major competitors in Kenai, (Kenai-Soldotna), in Wasilla (Wasilla and Palmer), in Fairbanks, in Juneau, and in Anchorage. So in the five largest population centers in the state,” Fields said.
The parent companies announced their intent to merge back on Oct. 14, stating the buyout would lead to an enhanced customer experience, increased wages and lower prices.
But Fields said he doesn’t buy that argument. Alaskans already pay some of the highest grocery prices in the country and Fields worries the merger would send prices significantly higher. He said mergers like these generally result in price spikes.
“That would be the first time in human history that reduced competition has lowered prices,” Fields said. “I don’t think this company is going to suspend the laws of economics and common sense. To the contrary, they would be closing stores, reducing consumer choice, and of course, because there’s no longer meaningful competition, raising prices.”
Carrs and Fred Meyer are two of Alaska’s leading employers, and Fields said a merger would also hurt their thousands of workers in the state by taking away bargaining power, leading to lower wages and benefits.
He hasn’t yet heard back from the FTC, but Fields says he has confidence in chair Lina Khan, who has been skeptical of corporate consolidation and its impacts on consumers.
Kroger and Albertsons did not respond to requests for comment for this story.