Is FTC Investigating Auto E-commerce Exchange?

FRAMINGHAM (03/22/2000) - A U.S. Federal Trade Commission spokesman this morning said he could neither confirm nor deny reports that the agency has started a preliminary inquiry into a planned online automotive trade exchange that is being developed by Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp. and DaimlerChrysler AG.

That report was published in today's Wall Street Journal.

David Barnas, a GM spokesman, said that General Motors hadn't received any formal notification of an investigation as of this morning. "We don't expect any repercussions from any investigation," he said.

Ford and DaimlerChrysler didn't return phone calls by press time.

The Big Three automakers announced plans to launch the venture in February. The exchange will operate as a separate entity from the companies, offering procurement transactions for the three carmakers as well as other auto manufacturers and their supply-chain partners.

As companies in various industries come together in business-to-business vertical marketplace projects, potential antitrust implications could receive increased attention. Last month, for example, the American Society of Travel Agents asked the U.S. Department of Justice to take action against 27 U.S. and international airlines that are developing an industry travel Web site, charging that the effort would result in a boycott of travel agents, a sales monopoly for online travel agents and price fixing.

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