WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said Monday it is investigating whether supply chain disruptions are hurting consumers with higher prices, and has ordered Walmart Inc, Amazon.com and other major food suppliers to give detailed information about the situation.
The goals of the study will be to determine if supply chain problems have led to particular bottlenecks, anti-competitive practices or higher prices, the agency said in a statement.
It comes as the Biden administration battles a surge in inflation amid concerns that supply chain woes in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic are pushing up consumer prices.
The National Grocers Association has also expressed concern that large retailers have been able to use their heft to compel sellers to keep supplies flowing, putting smaller competitors at a disadvantage.
At the White House, President Joe Biden met Monday with chief executives of major retailers to discuss how to move goods to shelves as the U.S. holiday shopping season begins in the shadow of the Omicron coronavirus variant.
The FTC said it is also requiring Kroger Co, C&S Wholesale Grocers Inc., Associated Wholesale Grocers Inc., Berkshire Hathaway unit McLane Co Inc, Procter & Gamble Co, Tyson Foods, and Kraft Heinz to provide information within 45 days of receiving the order.
FTC Chair Lina Khan said she hoped the study would “shed light on market conditions and business practices that may have worsened these disruptions or led to asymmetric effects.”
In its information requests, the agency asked the companies to detail what is behind any shortages they have experienced and what that has meant for them in terms of higher prices.
They have also asked for internal documents with strategies for maintaining their supply chain and determining pricing, as well as data on profit margin and market shares.
The FTC approved the study on a 4-0 bipartisan vote.
(Reporting by Diane Bartz and Eric Beech; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Richard Pullin)