The commission is suing on alleged antitrust violations
The Federal Trade Commission is suing to unwind Altria’s $12.8 billion investment in Juul Labs, alleging that the two companies worked together to eliminate competition in the e-cigarette market.
In its complaint, the FTC said that Juul’s e-cigarette products posed a significant threat to Altria’s market dominance. Juul had been a competitor to Altria’s own e-cigarette offerings. But in 2018, Altria stopped making e-cigarettes and instead became Juul’s largest investor. “Altria and Juul turned from competitors to collaborators by eliminating competition and sharing in Juul’s profits,” said Ian Conner, director of the Bureau of Competition, in a statement. Altria used its leverage as a top tobacco company to secure favorable shelf space for Juul’s products in stores across the United States, the FTC alleged.
This relationship helped Juul become the top e-cigarette brand in the country, according to the commission.
Juul did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Makena Kelly – The Verge – April 1, 2020.