Saturday, January 31, 2004

Calif. sues grocery chains

Suit names three, including Kroger

The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES - The California attorney general's office sued three supermarket chains involved in the labor dispute with Southern California grocery workers Friday, alleging that the companies broke antitrust laws and hurt consumers by forming a financial mutual aid pact.

"This action is about protecting shoppers against unlawful, anticompetitive conduct that keeps prices artificially high," Attorney General Bill Lockyer said in a statement Friday.

"The grocers' agreement to share costs and revenue hurts consumers by discouraging competitive pricing. The antitrust law exists to prevent that, and I intend to enforce the law," he said.

The federal suit was filed in Los Angeles against Albertsons Inc., Cincinnati's Kroger Co., which runs Ralphs and Food 4 Less, and Safeway Inc., which owns the Vons and Pavilions chains.

Lockyer contends that the companies' arrangement, which they made several weeks prior to entering collective bargaining with some 70,000 grocery employees, violates federal antitrust laws, particularly the Sherman Act.

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