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Amazon's Bite

Cartoon by Robert Ariail

Amazon Bites Off Even More Monopoly Power

The New York Times: Amazon on Friday announced plans to acquire Whole Foods, the high-end grocer. If approved by antitrust enforcers, the $13.7 billion deal would give Amazon control of more than 400 stores, an extensive supply chain and a new source of consumer data.

Amazon will argue to federal authorities, most likely the Federal Trade Commission, that the deal should be blessed because the combined entity’s share of the American grocery market will be less than 5 percent.

But antitrust officials would be naïve to view this deal as simply about groceries. Buying Whole Foods will enable Amazon to leverage and amplify the extraordinary power it enjoys in online markets and delivery, making an even greater share of commerce part of its fief.

The company has established its level of dominance because of the failings of our current antitrust laws. To understand why, you first need to understand the scope of Amazon’s power. It has captured 43 percent of all internet retail sales in the United States, with half of all online shopping searches starting on Amazon. In 2016, it had over $63 billion in revenue from online sales in the United States — or more than the next 10 top online retailers combined. It controls 74 percent of e-book sales, is the largest seller of clothes online and is set to soon become the biggest apparel retailer in the country.

Amazon today is also one of the world’s largest logistics networks and marketing platforms, as well as the dominant provider of cloud computing, which counts among its clients the Central Intelligence Agency. It manufactures products like the Echo, produces award-winning movies and television series, and delivers food from restaurants in 20 cities.

In building this vast empire, Amazon chased growth over paying dividends, pricing key goods and services below cost to chase out competitors. It invested heavily to buy out innovators like Diapers.com after waging price wars. (Amazon followed its acquisition by raising prices.) >>>

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