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Antitrust advocacy group, the American Antitrust Institute, wants the US Justice Department to block Whirlpool's proposed purchase of Maytag, or to at least require the Benton Harbor based company to spin off holdings in its laundry business.

"American consumers have benefited from the price and quality competition, choice, and innovation generated by competition between these two laundry giants. A merged Whirlpool/Maytag amounts to a wet rag for millions of consumers," says Albert Foer, the president of the American Antitrust Institute, a no-profit group based in Washington.

The institute said the laundry appliance industry would feel the biggest effect. The effect of a merged Whirlpool and Maytag "would severely concentrate markets, significantly lessen competition, and harm consumers through higher prices, reduced choice, and stifled innovation,".

Whirlpool reached agreement in August to buy Maytag for $1.7 billion in cash and stock. Shareholders of Maytag voted in December to approve the merger, pending regulatory approval.

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