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FTC Keeping Close Watch on Corporate Price Signaling, Khan Says

June 9, 2022, 4:00 AM

The Federal Trade Commission is keeping an eye on companies to ensure they aren’t using rising inflation as an excuse to coordinate illegal price hikes, chair Lina Khan said.

“Instances in which companies may be signaling to each other that they’re looking to engage in coordinated price hikes, that’s something that has deep antitrust ramifications and is something that’s on our radar,” Khan said in an interview Wednesday.

Lina Khan
Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg

The antitrust agency can pursue cases against companies that approach rivals about coordinating prices, even if those price hikes never take place. The FTC has brought cases against such “invitations to collude,” Khan said.

Inflation Risks Getting Sticky as Big Firms Flex Pricing Power

Khan refuted arguments that corporate concentration isn’t impacting the highest recorded inflation in decades. Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers and other economists have argued that corporate power isn’t a cause of rising inflation, rebutting Democratic lawmakers and progressives, who argue that companies are using the pandemic as an excuse to hike prices.

“Concentrated markets could be contributing to or exacerbating what we’re seeing in terms of companies’ ability to raise prices,” she said. “An inflationary environment could give cover for companies to either unilaterally or in coordination be raising prices that consumers are more resigned to accepting.”

To contact the reporters on this story:
Leah Nylen in Washington at lnylen2@bloomberg.net;
Andrea Vittorio in Arlington at avittorio3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Sara Forden at sforden@bloomberg.net;
Jay-Anne Casuga at jcasuga1@bloomberg.net

Bernard Kohn

© 2022 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Used with permission.