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Toys 'R' Us targeted by Missouri

November 18, 1997
By: Joe Stange
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - At least 38 states, including Missouri, want something from Toys 'R' Us this holiday season, and it is not a Barbie Dreamhouse.

Missouri joined a slew of other states Monday in a class action lawsuit against toy-industry giant Toys 'R' Us, demanding the corporation change its ways.

Their contention: that Toys 'R' Us, along with a few major manufacturers, is engaging in illegal price-fixing practices.

The states are accusing the worldwide toy store chain of keeping certain toys out of the hands of warehouse clubs like Sam's, thereby removing themselves from direct competition.

Scott Holste, a spokesman for Missouri's Attorney General, said the end result is that parents often cannot find the same toy by itself at the different stores.

"We view this as anti-competitive," Holste said. "It results in higher prices for the consumers...In some cases the discount clubs aren't even allowed to sell certain toys."

However, Wal-Mart, which operates Sam's Club warehouses, may not have any qualms with Toys 'R' Us or the toy manufacturers.

"We're very comfortable with the merchandise selection we offer our customers," said spokeswoman Betsy Riethemeyer. "We are not really certain why we're being named so prominently [by the attorneys general]."

Rebecca Caruso, a Toys 'R' Us spokeswoman at the company's national headquarters in Paramus, N.J., denied any wrongdoing by her company.

"We firmly believe we are acting in the consumers' best interest," Caruso said.

Following a year-long investigation, the Federal Trade Commission in September made similar accusations, though it did not place any blame on the manufacturers.

According to Holste, the class-action lawsuit alleges that manufacturers, including Mattel, Inc. and Hasbro, Inc., worked "in concert" with Toys 'R' Us.