In 2017, New Hampshire’s state government was working hard to convince Amazon to build its HQ2 in the Granite State.
“By embracing a joint venture with the State of New Hampshire, Amazon stands to gain a partner that believes the customer comes first,” Sununu said in his pitch.
Sununu even connected Amazon to the First in the Nation primary with a “Prime Meets Primary” pitch.
“Amazon will surely be a popular stop for future presidential candidates, and Amazon employees will benefit from a level of interaction that can only be found in New Hampshire. One thing is for certain, you will always have the opportunity to meet, and even get to know, the president when you live and work in New Hampshire,” Sununu said.
But today, New Hampshire is partnering with blue states like Massachusetts and New York in the Biden administration’s lawsuit attacking Amazon as an anti-competitive monopoly. It is a very different look for a Sununu administration that touts New Hampshire as the most business-friendly corner of New England.
On Tuesday, Attorney General John Formella announced that New Hampshire will be one of the 17 states joining the Biden Federal Trade Commission in a lawsuit accusing Amazon of engaging in “monopolistic control” of online sales markets.
“We are suing Amazon on behalf of New Hampshire’s consumers and small businesses alike. Amazon’s ongoing pattern of illegal conduct takes advantage of shoppers and undermines small businesses throughout the Granite State,” Formella said.
New Hampshire and Oklahoma are the only two states with Republican attorneys general participating in the lawsuit. Even liberal Republican Gov. Phil Scott, next door in Vermont, is not on board.
So why is the pro-business Sununu administration throwing punches at Amazon Prime?
The assault on Amazon began when President Joe Biden, under political pressure from progressives, named Lina Khan as chair of the Federal Trade Commission. As Tom Schatz of Citizens Against Government Waste put it, “Khan signaled her disdain for this concept in her January 2017 Yale Law Journal article, ‘Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox,’ in which she claimed that even though Amazon saves money for consumers, its benefits cannot be measured ‘primarily through price and output.’”
After years of investigating, the FTC and its fellow plaintiffs allege Amazon punished sellers who sold their products on other platforms for less than at Amazon. The FTC also claims sellers had to pay for Amazon’s logistic services if they wanted their products to appear in Amazon Prime.
Amazon argues its practices have resulted in lower prices and more convenience for consumers, which is the goal of antitrust laws. If consumers are happy and have plenty of choices, how is that a bad thing, it asks.
“Today’s suit makes clear the FTC’s focus has radically departed from its mission of protecting consumers and competition,” said Amazon’s general counsel, David Zapolsky.
To succeed, said Jeffrey Westling at American Action Forum, “the FTC will need to prove two key elements. First, it must prove that Amazon has monopoly power in a relevant market. Second, it must prove that Amazon has used anticompetitive, exclusionary conduct to illegally maintain that monopoly power.”
One major hurdle? Consumers appear to like shopping at Amazon — so much so that the online retailer had $513 billion in revenue in 2022, making it the third-largest public company by revenue in the world.
Polls show Americans like Amazon, too.
In the most recent Harvard-Harris poll, Americans said Amazon was “the most trusted institution,” including the U.S. military and the Supreme Court. Amazon currently ranks No. 2 on Fortune magazine’s World’s Most Admired Companies list.
Opposing a company loved — or at least frequently utilized — by suburban families is very off-brand for Sununu, several New Hampshire Republicans told NHJournal.
“This is the guy who got Market Basket to fix the deli bags,” one Sununu supporter told NHJournal. “Why is he doing this? It sounds like a Massachusetts move, not New Hampshire.”
Massachusetts progressive Sen. Elizabeth Warren is a big fan of the lawsuit.
“Amazon has abused its monopoly power to crush competition and boost profits at the expense of consumers and small businesses. [This lawsuit] is a by-the-book example of reining in monopolistic behavior,” Warren said on social media Wednesday.
But in New Hampshire, the reaction has been less enthusiastic.
“If Amazon is a monopoly using its monopolistic position to abuse the market, the market will respond. Non-abusive companies will surface and prosper,” said Bill O’Brien, chairman of the Pine Tree Public Policy Institute. “New technology will give Amazon sellers and consumers alternatives. All we need to do is trust the market and not rely on government regulators and litigators.”
And a poll released by the Josiah Bartlett Center and the Competitiveness Coalition earlier this month found that 72 percent of GOP primary voters are opposed to the Biden Administration establishing new regulations that would break up large technology companies such as Amazon, Apple, and Google, including 47 percent who are strongly opposed.
“From lingering inflation, higher borrowing costs, and souring views on the labor market, almost every economic metric is moving in the wrong direction, and the Biden administration is now trying to take away a service relied on by 180 million Americans,” said former Sen. Scott Brown, who now chairs the Competitiveness Coalition.
“Since her time at Yale Law School, FTC Chair Lina Khan has made Amazon her white whale, and today she got her wish. Her stunt is the latest in a long series of egregious overreach and should be rejected like countless other cases brought forward by this FTC. If it isn’t, the American consumer is in for a world of pain.
“This is Bidenomics at its finest,” Brown said.
Amazon insists the lawsuit is misguided.
“The FTC’s case alleges that our practice of only highlighting competitively priced offers and our practice of matching low prices offered by other retailers somehow lead to higher prices. But that’s not how competition works. The FTC has it backwards, and if they were successful in this lawsuit, the result would be anticompetitive and anti-consumer because we’d have to stop many of the things we do to offer and highlight low prices—a perverse result that would be directly opposed to the goals of antitrust law.”
Sununu did not respond to a request for comment.