Shelf Space Again: Congress Announces Antitrust Investigation of the Grocery Market

Josh Wright —  8 February 2007

Representative Kucinich has announced that the House Oversight and Government Reform Domestic Policy Subcommittee will be launching an investigation into “a variety of marketplace issues including monopolies in the grocery industry.” HT: AntitrustProf Blog. Hearings are apparently tentatively scheduled for mid-month. What is the committee looking for? Just about anything. Here’s a description of the aim of the investigation from the Representative:

“I’m looking at monopolies generally, but anything that affects what people pay for a product and also how much competition there is in the marketplace. In general, [I’m] looking at anything that relates to restraint of trade.”

This mission statement seems to at least potentially embrace a few subjects of interest to me, i.e. slotting contracts and competition for retail distribution (shelf space).  Though the “anything that relates to restraint of trade” statement strikes me a bit like a hammer looking for a nail.  If the Subcommittee is interested in slotting contracts, shelf space competition, the use of category management contracts, or exclusivity in the supermarket, might I humbly suggest the my two papers co-authored with Ben Klein (Klein and Wright, 2007a on Slotting Contracts, Klein and Wright, 2007b on Category Management) as well as my own empirical project on slotting contracts as potentially useful background reading (see also the 2001 FTC Report on related issues).