The National Grocers Association (NGA) has released a new commercial - debuting today on "Morning Joe" on MSNBC and "Fox & Friends" on Fox News - that it says is designed to shine "a spotlight on the unfair and discriminatory tactics of dominant food retailers that harm the ability of Main Street businesses to compete and serve communities throughout the U.S."
The argument is that "in today’s marketplace, just four big chains control 69 percent of the market share, and they systematically use their power to push smaller competitors out of business. Independent grocers have been competing on an uneven playing field over the years as dominant chains ignore antitrust law and abuse their buyer power to coerce suppliers provide discriminatory prices and more favorable supply terms, special package offerings and product availability, leaving independent grocers to pay the price. They not only set favorable terms for themselves, but they also effectively ensure that smaller grocers pay more and get less."
NGA also posits that "independent grocers and grocery wholesalers aren’t the only ones feeling the negative impact of economic discrimination; it’s bad for their customers, who are often people living in urban and rural areas who are forced to pay higher prices or travel farther distances to get the staples they need."
“For decades, dominant firms in the grocery marketplace have leveraged their buying power to demand special treatment through access to products, promotions and better prices from suppliers that are not offered to independent community grocers,” said NGA CEO and President, Greg Ferrara. “This unchecked anticompetitive behavior leaves independent store owners and their customers with less choice, fewer options and paying more for goods and products. Independents aren’t looking for a free handout. They’re just looking for a level playing field to compete.”
- KC's View:
As you can see, the commercial ends with a call to action for consumers:
Tell the FTC.
Protect American families.
Revive the Robinson-Patman Act.
I have no idea how successful commercials such as these are in moving the public policy needle. We certainly see a lot of them on cable news stations, for a ton of issues ranging from the selection of judges to the need for stronger and better enforcement of gun laws. So it'll be interesting to see the degree to which the NGA policy ad has an impact. (It is being targeted at unelected regulators at the FTC as opposed to elected legislators, so the degree to which pressure can be effective is debatable.)
I am cynical about two things. First, I wonder how many Americans know what "FTC" stands for, and what it does. And second, how many have any sense of what the Robinson-Patman Act does? So the NGA commercial, as effective as the argument and production values are, may be a tad esoteric for civics-challenged Americans.