Today, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed its long-rumored lawsuit against Amazon, accusing the company of engaging in anti-competitive conduct. Joined by just 17 state attorneys general, the case appears weak. Among the claims are that Amazon should be prohibited from showing its customers the best online prices for sought-after products, and that the Prime Certification requirement imposes an unfair burden on third-party sellers on the Amazon Marketplace.
Unfortunately, this suit fits a recent pattern of regulatory overreach on the part of the FTC. The lawsuit against Amazon is reflective of a general shift away from what has been the Commission’s core mission for well over four decades: to protect consumer welfare by keeping prices low and encouraging businesses to innovate
In the case of consumer retail, it is well-established that competition between traditional brick-and-mortar shops and online stores is intense and that the line between these two categories has blurred. A finding that any one company enjoys a monopoly is a high bar for the FTC to clear, and it has clearly not been met here.
Under any reasonable interpretation of existing law, there simply is no antitrust harm. Instead of filing meritless lawsuits, the FTC should focus on its proper role, which is to enforce the law as it is.