FTC staff has doggedly tracked down information about competition in the pet medications industry for the past several years. Why? Because it’s a large and growing consumer market. With 65 percent of American households owning a pet, and retail sales of prescription pet medications expected to top $10 billion by 2018, it is clearly a market where competition could benefit consumers. Most consumers pay for pet meds out-of-pocket and do not have pet health insurance that covers these expenses.
These days, the sharing economy is all around us. One person might use her smartphone to get an Uber ride to a dinner arranged through Feastly. Another might hire a Taskrabbit to clean up his garden for spring and order custom pots for his flowers from a seller on Etsy. But do these new services come with risks to competition and consumers? And how should regulations governing traditional suppliers be tailored to apply to them?
Consumers frequently contact the Bureau of Competition to alert us that the cost of a prescription drug suddenly spiked up, and ask if the FTC can take antitrust action to bring the price back down. The answer in a nutshell is that it depends on the reason for the price change.
A fundamental principle of competition is that consumers – not regulation – should determine what they buy and how they buy it. Consumers may benefit from the ability to buy cars directly from manufacturers – whether they are shopping for luxury cars or economy vehicles. The same competition principles should apply in either case.