(NEWSnet/AP) — The Federal Trade Commission sued to block a proposed merger between grocery giants Kroger and Albertsons, saying the $24.6 billion deal would eliminate competition and lead to higher prices for millions of Americans.

The FTC filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Oregon on Monday. It was joined in the suit by the attorneys general of eight states and the District of Columbia.

Kroger and Albertsons, two of the nation’s largest grocers, agreed to merge in October 2022. The companies said a merger would help them better compete with Walmart, Amazon, Costco and other big rivals. Together, Kroger and Albertsons would control around 13% of the U.S. grocery market; Walmart controls 22%, according to J.P. Morgan analyst Ken Goldman.

Both companies, immediately after the FTC announcement, said that they will challenge the agency in court.

Kroger, based in Cincinnati, Ohio, operates 2,750 stores in 35 states and the District of Columbia, including brands like Ralphs, Smith’s and Harris Teeter. Albertsons, based in Boise, Idaho, operates 2,273 stores in 34 states, including brands like Safeway, Jewel Osco and Shaw’s. Together the companies employ around 700,000 people.

The FTC, which said the proposed deal would be the largest grocery merger in U.S. history, said it would also erase competition for workers, threatening their ability to win higher wages, better benefits and improved working conditions.

The action by the FTC and the states follows lawsuits filed earlier this year in Colorado and Washington to block the merger. The states that joined the FTC lawsuit Monday are Arizona, California, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon and Wyoming.

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