The battle between two of the state's largest supermarket chains rages on at the Legislature, despite one side saying a truce has been struck.
The proposed "Utah Truth in Advertising Act," HB163, was initiated by American Stores Co., owner of Alpha Beta supermarkets. Observers say American Stores wants to rein in the price comparison campaigns by Smith's Food and Drug, which markets itself as the "Everyday Low Price Leader."In retaliation, Smith's has filed its own bill, HB340, which it says is a model used in other states to regulate all types of advertising, not just comparing prices.
The battle has become the subject of intense lobbying by both sides, with retailers across the state anxiously awaiting the outcome.
American Stores says it has not targeted Smith's, but its proposed "Truth in Advertising Act" would apply to all retailers.
Meanwhile, the Utah Advertising Federation announced its official opposition to both bills.
"It's inappropriate for legislation to be imposed on everyone that would resolve a disagreement between two grocery store chains," federation spokesman Dale Zabriskie said.
"We don't feel there is a need and we are not aware of any public outcry for this legislation."
Zabriskie added that the federation could change its position, depending on what the expected substitute HB163 says.
Both sides have met to reach a compromise, and officials from American Stores and HB163's sponsor, Rep. Mike Dmitrich, D-Price, say a deal has been struck.
But, Smith's can't confirm a compromise, yet.
"We met late (Monday) and it appears we may have reached a compromise, but we are still waiting to see the final draft," said Smith's attorney, James S. Jardine.
He said a truce was presumably struck last week. But the changes requested by Smith's were not made as of Monday afternoon.
But Dmitrich guarantees Smith's concerns have been satisfied.
"They can take my word for it," he said.
Changes that would bring about a compromise are complicated provisions dealing with time restrictions and disclosures.
One change supposedly made deals with a detailed disclosure of the relationship between the advertiser and firm conducting the price comparison audit.
Both Smith's and the advertising federation say extensive disclosures would prohibit broadcast advertising by taking up too much time in a 15-30 second commercial.
If a compromise is reached, Dmitrich said his bill will get a hearing before the House Transportation and Public Safety Committee, which meets Wednesday.