Senate Passes State Venue Antitrust Bill That Google Opposed

Vote marks key step in US efforts to change rules for Big Tech.

Bloomberg News

June 15, 2022

2 Min Read
Senate Passes State Venue Antitrust Bill That Google Opposed

(Bloomberg) -- The Senate passed legislation Tuesday evening to allow state attorneys general to pick the location where their federal antitrust suits are heard, a blow to Alphabet Inc.’s Google, which had opposed the bill.

The chamber passed the measure by unanimous consent. An amendment removed a provision that would have applied the measure retroactively to a 2020 antitrust suit filed by Texas and 14 other states and territories against the operator of the world’s largest search engine. 

The bill, which has widespread bipartisan backing, now requires a House floor vote. If enacted, the legislation would give states the power to decide where antitrust trials are held, with companies not allowed to challenge those decisions. The federal government already has the same right.

The measure grew out of a 16-month investigation by a House antitrust panel into the power of giant technology platforms. It represents a key step by US lawmakers to curb the monopoly power of internet giants in the nearly 30 years since the worldwide web was made available for commercial use -- with the exception of a measure to protect online privacy for children in 1998. It’s part of a package of antitrust bills designed to rein in Big Tech that Congress is pushing to turn into law before the August recess.

Other bills, which are expected to be voted on as soon as next week, would bar large technology platforms like Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Meta Platforms Inc. from favoring their own products over those of smaller rivals who use their platforms. A second proposal would open up distribution of apps on mobile devices, forcing Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc. to allow alternate app stores and payment methods. 

The states’ antitrust suit against Google -- which accuses the search giant of monopolizing the advertising technology market -- was originally filed in Texas federal court. But Google successfully got the case transferred to New York, where it’s now being heard alongside a group of private antitrust cases against Google. 

Senator Alex Padilla, a California Democrat, had raised concerns about the fairness of applying the bill to cases already filed. Efforts to move the state’s antitrust lawsuit back to Texas will likely now be subject to litigation.

Senator Mike Lee, a Utah Republican and co-sponsor, had twice previously sought the bill’s passage and been stymied by Senate Democrats, who wanted to wait and move the legislation alongside other antitrust measures. 

Representative Ken Buck, a Colorado Republican and lead bill sponsor in the House, has urged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to schedule a floor vote on the measure, which advanced out of committee a year ago. 

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