In a groundbreaking lawsuit filed Tuesday, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost asserts that he wants Google recognized as a public utility, rather than a public firm, to rein in how it distributes search results to Ohioans.
The complaint was dubbed “landmark” by Yost, who said that Google is discriminatory and anti-competitive.
He filed the complaint in Delaware County Court, claiming that Ohio is the first state in the nation to do so.
“Google is discriminatory and anti-competitive because it uses its dominance in internet search to steer Ohioans to Google’s own products,” Yost stated. “If you own a railroad, an electric company, or a cellphone tower, you have to treat everyone equally and provide access to everyone.”
Yost’s lawsuit seeks to have Google classified as a common carrier, or public utility, and subject to government oversight.
It also claims that the California-based firm has a responsibility to provide equal rights to suppliers or competitors, and that it should not prioritize the placement of its own products, services, and websites in search results.
Yost wants equal rights for adverts, improvements, knowledge boxes, integrated specialized searches, direct replies, and other features, as well.
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.
In December, he joined 37 other attorneys general in a lawsuit alleging that the firm had broken the Sherman Act, which prohibits groupings of firms from forming monopolies in order to decrease economic competition.