Inflation has ratcheted up the cost of living in America, and prices likely aren’t coming back down. But instead of celebrating retailers’ push to innovate — delivering greater value at lower cost — progressives are pressing for regulations that will push prices even higher for American consumers.
Biden’s Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently sued Amazon over its popular retail offerings. The agency accuses Amazon of breaking antitrust law by offering so many tools to sellers and so much value to Amazon customers that it makes things difficult for the company’s competitors. But this argument flies in the face of current antitrust law based on the consumer welfare standard, which encourages competition tactics that are good for consumers — regardless of whether rivals are inconvenienced.
As most Americans know, an Amazon Prime membership means major benefits, such as free and fast shipping and easy returns. But it is hardly the only business offering these benefits to buyers. Many of the four million retail businesses across the U.S. use the internet to reach customers anywhere, by offering services, convenience and savings that consumers desire and demand. Over 65 percent of online retailers, for example, offer free shipping on at least some of their products.
Costco, Kroger, Walmart and Target have all expanded into “Retail-as-a-Service,” providing shoppers with one-stop access to subscriptions and on-demand services for financing, auto, travel and healthcare. Similarly, the National Retail Federation reports that over 50 percent of retailers are expanding options for customers to collect their purchases, offering choices like traditional shipping, ship-from-store, or buy online and pick up in store. Subscription-based models have also become popular, giving consumers convenient access to high-quality products and services for less.
This is the retail market that works for Americans: hot competition, non-stop innovation and lightning-fast responses to changing consumer preferences. But Biden’s antitrust crusaders, like FTC Chair Lina Khan, dislike this dynamism and consumer choice. They want to use the force of the federal government to restrain or break up businesses that don’t fit their vision of an American economy designed to serve their subjective view of “fairness.”
Americans, however, are not aligned with this vision. A recent Morning Consult poll lists Amazon as America’s third-most trusted brand, and according to a recent Harvard/CAPS poll, Amazon is among Americans’ most favored institutions. But Americans wouldn’t even recognize the grossly mischaracterized Amazon described in the FTC’s complaint. Polling on the FTC’s lawsuit by my organization, NetChoice, shows that 84 percent of Americans believe the government has better things to do than attacking Amazon.
Sadly for consumers, Biden’s antitrust crusaders don’t seem to care what we think. Consider the words of Tim Wu, one of Biden’s antitrust architects. Wu once complained that low prices of flour are bad because they make it harder for artisan bread makers to compete. In Wu’s own words, antitrust law should be used as “industrial policy…to force it to make way for the next generation of technologists and their dreams” — not to allow American consumers to decide which businesses are providing the best solutions for them.
The retail industry is trying to grow by providing value for consumers battered by inflation — the result of bad policy choices by the Biden administration. Economists have long recognized that digital goods and services reduce inflation. Our economic situation will only worsen with radical actions like Khan’s against businesses that provide high-quality goods and services at competitive prices for consumers.
Antitrust laws were designed to ensure that American businesses compete vigorously to serve consumers. But today’s progressive crusaders in the Biden administration and Congress are advocating policies that stray far from the original objectives of antitrust law. Their policies would make Americans pay more for the goods and services they need. It’s time for our government to pay more attention to the choices and preferences of American voters and consumers.
Steve DelBianco is the President & CEO of NetChoice, a trade association dedicated to protecting free enterprise and free expression online. Amazon is a member of NetChoice.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller.