Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost wants internet search engine Google designated as a public utility, rather than a public company, to rein in how it provides search results to Ohioans, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday.
Yost called the lawsuit landmark, saying Google is discriminatory and anti-competitive. He filed the lawsuit in Delaware County Court and said Ohio is the first state in the country to bring such a lawsuit.
“Google uses its dominance of internet search to steer Ohioans to Google’s own products – that’s discriminatory and anti-competitive,” Yost said. “When you own the railroad or the electric company or the cellphone tower, you have to treat everyone the same and give everybody access.”
Yost’s lawsuit wants Google declared as a common carrier, or public utility, and be subject to government regulation. It also says the California-based company has a duty to offer sources or competitors rights equal to its own, claiming it should not prioritize the placement of its own products, services and websites on search results.
Yost said he wants those equal rights to extend to advertisements, enhancements, knowledge boxes, integrated specialized searches, direct answers and other features.
The lawsuit does not seek monetary damages.
Yost claims Google hurts Ohioans by not offering all the information in order for someone searching to make the best decision. He used searching for a flight as an example, saying if Google returns its own search results to steer someone to Google Flights, the person will not see offers from competitors such as Orbitz or Travelocity.
“Google search is designed to provide people with the most relevant and helpful results. AG Yost’s lawsuit would make Google Search results worse and make it harder for small businesses to connect directly with customers,” Google said in a statement to The Center Square. “Ohioans simply don’t want the government to run Google like a gas or electric company. This lawsuit has no basis in fact or law, and we’ll defend ourselves against it in court.”
The lawsuit is the second Yost has filed against Google in the past several months. He joined 37 other attorneys general in December in an action that claimed the company violated the Sherman Act, which was established to stop groups of businesses from colluding to form a monopoly to reduce economic competition.