In the Matter of Staples/Essendant, Inc., File No. 1810180
The Staples-Essendant is a poor idea and undermines competition in the office supply industry. There are just two wholesalers in that industry, Essendant and S.P. Richards. These wholesalers are essential to independent office dealers. With the approval of this merger, the FTC is allowing a major competitor to control one of these essential wholesalers. Through this merger, Staples will gain access to highly sensitive data that Essendant has about independent dealers, including pricing and terms offered when bidding on competitive contracts that Staples is also bidding on. The proposed "firewall" to be established between Staples and Essendant is insufficient to address this clear conflict-of-interest. Among other things, it is unenforceable with regard to the verbal sharing of information between Staples and Essendant. Staples now has a significant incentive to raise the prices that Essendant charges independent office dealers, thus increasing the prices they charge and helping to steer more customers to Staples. This is an unfair advantage. It is extremely disconcerting that the Federal Trade Commission would approve such a "vertical" merger giving such a huge unfair advantage to a major chain like Staples.