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Consumer Group Asks FTC to Scrutinize RH Sale
-- 5/18/98
In a letter to Robert Pitofsky, chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, and William Baer, director of the Bureau of Competition, retired Senator Howard Metzenbaum urged the FTC to thoroughly investigate the pending merger between Bertelsmann's BDD and Random House. Metzenbaum was writing in his capacity as chairman of the Consumer Federation of America, an umbrella organization for 240 consumer groups.
Metzenbaum said the proposed merger would substantially reduce the availability of trade books and deprive consumers of the widest variety possible of authors and books from which to choose. He said that regardless of the "market concentration index, in this industry, one should look beyond the numbers." Metzenbaum argued that antitrust laws "extend protection to the variety and quality of goods available, not just their sheer volume."

Metzenbaum urged the FTC to give the merger "the strictest scrutiny, and to take appropriate action to ensure that consumers continue to have the greatest range of choices for books by promising authors."

In a statement, Bertelsmann spokesperson Stuart Applebaum said: "The arguments presented by the CFA are inaccurate as to the intentions of the proposed new combined company and irrelevant to regulatory approval. The suggestion that the newly merged Random House would be less welcoming to first-time authors is nonsensical. In 1998 and 1999, both BDD and Random House are publishing dozens of debuting authors. We've discussed the new combined company's ongoing commitment to first-time authors and to publishing the widest possible variety of books fully with the FTC."
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