In a recent segment, John Oliver looked at antitrust enforcement, and specifically at competition in the eyewear industry. He points out that big businesses are getting even bigger, there has been a record amount of corporate consolidation, and this is making products worse and harming ordinary Americans. Mergers and acquisitions are negatively affecting consumers, stifling competition, and making it difficult for new businesses to get started. For example, four airlines now dominate 80% of the American market and 70% of the beer industry is controlled by two companies.
And with regards to eyewear, an Italian company named Luxottica owns a great many smaller companies. When another company named Oakley tried to compete with them, Luxottica dropped Oakley from its stores, refusing to sell its products. Oakley's stock prices collapsed, and Luxottica then bought the company, eliminating a prominent competitor. Oliver notes that heavily consolidated industries often lose the incentives to improve their products, and competition and consumer choice is a problem in the eyewear field as well. Antitrust regulators should take a stronger stance against anticompetitive mergers. Recently Luxottica has sought to acquire Essilor, the largest supplier of opthalmic lenses, but the European Union is investigating the proposal. American antitrust authorities should investigate it as well.