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Congressman calls for antitrust hearing into Amazon-Whole Foods deal

  • Congress should hold an antitrust hearing into the Amazon-Whole Foods deal to figure out what the implications of the transaction may be, Rep. David Cicilline told CNBC.
  • Cicilline said that doesn't mean he wants to block the deal.
  • In June, Amazon said it planned to acquire the grocery store chain for $42 a share, in a deal valued at $13.7 billion.

Congress should hold an antitrust hearing into the Amazon-Whole Foods deal to figure out what the implications of the transaction may be, Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., told CNBC on Tuesday.

In June, Amazon said it planned to acquire the grocery store chain for $42 a share, in a deal valued at $13.7 billion.

Last week, Cicilline wrote a letter to Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., the House Judiciary Committee chairman, and Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., the chairman of the Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law, asking them to look into the issue.

"People have a lot of anxiety about the creeping monopolies and mega-mergers that are giving consumers less and less power in the marketplace," Cicilline said in an interview with "Closing Bell."

He said it was not his intention to block the deal, but rather to explore the possible ramifications surrounding it.

"This is an important transaction. We should study it carefully. We should understand the implications … on jobs, on competition, on the marketplace and what the impact will be on consumers," said Cicilline, a ranking member of the Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law.

He also said it is an opportunity to see if antitrust laws need to be updated.

"Our antitrust laws were enacted ... more than 100 years ago in the context of railroad monopolies, and maybe in the face of automation and this new economy, the digital economy, we need to do some refreshing of our antitrust statutes," Cicilline said.

He's not the only one who wants the pending acquisition looked into. On Monday, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, which represents retail workers, called on the Federal Trade Commission to scrutinize the deal. The union doesn't represent Whole Foods employees but 800,000 clerks and other workers at grocery chains.

"Amazon arguably poses a greater threat to our retail economy than any other online or traditional brick and mortar grocer," UFCW International President Marc Perrone wrote in a letter to the FTC.

Meanwhile, Amazon is also taking another step into the food space, registering a trademark in the U.S. on July 6 for a meal-kit business.

The news, which hit Sunday, sent shares of meal-kit provider Blue Apron tumbling on Monday and prompted CNBC's Jim Cramer to say, "You just have to hope that you don't wake up in the morning and see Amazon has decided to get in your business."

— CNBC's Sarah Whitten, Berkeley Lovelace Jr. and Reuters contributed to this report.