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FTC Asks Amazon, Walmart for Information About Supply-Chain Issues

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FTC Asks Amazon, Walmart for Information About Supply-Chain Issues

The Federal Trade Commission is seeking information from Amazon.com Inc., Procter & Gamble Co. , Walmart Inc. and others about how they are handling supply-chain snarls, part of a study into whether the problems have led to anticompetitive behavior and higher prices.

The document request isn’t part of any law-enforcement action, the FTC said in a press release. Instead, the agency said it is looking to understand the reasons behind the widespread supply-chain problems that have crimped economic growth.

The agency is also seeking documents and information from Kroger Co. , C&S Wholesale Grocers Inc., Associated Wholesale Grocers Inc., McLane Co., Tyson Foods Inc., and Kraft Heinz Co. The companies have 45 days to respond.

The order will require the companies to detail how they are navigating the supply chain crisis, including how it has affected the availability of transportation, delayed orders and led to increased prices. The FTC also wants to know what companies are doing to fix the problems and how they allocate products among stores when products are scarce.

A McLane spokesman said the company hadn’t received the FTC request but expected to cooperate. P&G declined to comment. The other firms had no immediate response.

Companies have been struggling with delays to import goods and move them around the country this year, as Covid outbreaks have disrupted ports, manufacturing sites and left many logistics companies short-handed. Dozens of boxships have been waiting for weeks to unload at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, Calif. Before the pandemic, it was unusual for any ships to wait.

While some major retailers such as Walmart have been largely able to sidestep the logjams by moving imports earlier in the year or chartering their own vessels, some smaller chains have been scrambling to keep shelves stocked.

President Biden met earlier Monday with executives from several retailers and grocers, including the leaders of Walmart, Best Buy Co. and Food Lion. He touted economic data showing an uptick in Black Friday sales and consumer spending. “We’re looking toward the holiday season. We feel a lot more like the ones we had in the past,” he said.

Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said in the meeting that despite supply-chain concerns, the retailer’s inventory levels were up by 10% ahead of the holiday season. “We have more inventory than we did a year ago and have the inventory that we need to be able to support the business, and we are seeing progress—the port and transit delays are improving,” he said.

Meg Ham, president of Food Lion who also attended the meeting, said that there have been targeted supply chain issues but that there is ample product available on the shelves. She said the grocer is working with a wide range of suppliers, sourcing products from new companies and engaging with local manufacturers.

The administration also discussed new measures Monday seeking to address supply chain logjams. CMA CGM Group, one of the largest international carriers, said Monday it has agreed to provide a new incentive program for containers to be more quickly picked up from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The program will be effective Dec. 1 for 90 days.

The Transportation Department said it would extend the flexibility on the number of hours truck drivers can drive through the end of February and the Federal Maritime Commission said it would allow users of terminal gates at the ports to be exempted from paying fees for night and weekend pickup of containers.

FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan said in a press statement that she hopes the supply chain study will “shed light on market conditions and business practices that may have worsened these disruptions and led to asymmetric effects.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the chief advocacy group for American companies, recently said it was publicly challenging Ms. Khan, contending that she is overstepping the agency’s legal authority.

 

Paul Ziobro & Tarini Parti

Πηγή : wsj.com

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