Ohio’s attorney general on Tuesday filed a lawsuit asking the court to declare Google a public utility and/or a common carrier under Ohio common law.
In the complaint, Attorney General Dave Yost argues that Google’s dominance of the internet search market necessarily leads to it being categorized as a common carrier or public utility under the state’s common law. In order to be a public utility, an entity’s operations must be “a matter of public concern,” and its membership must be “indiscriminately and reasonably made available to the general public.” The complaint alleges that Google is the most visited website in Ohio, dominates the search engine market in Ohio, and is offered indiscriminately to the people of Ohio.
Along with asking the court to declare Google a public utility, Yost’s complaint also asks that the court order Google to carry and offer all information indiscriminately. Currently, according to the lawsuit, Google preferences its own products in its search results, as opposed to providing natural or “organic” search results that do not preference Google. Rather than ask for damages, which the complaint states would be “an inadequate remedy,” Ohio is seeking an injunction that would prohibit Google from prioritizing its own products and services in search results.
In a short statement Yost compared Google to traditional utilities and carriers like railroads, electric companies, and cell service providers, saying that they “have to treat everyone the same and give everybody access.” This is the second anti-competition lawsuit against Google that Ohio is involved in; in December, Yost joined with 37 other state attorneys general in a federal lawsuit accusing the company of violating Section 2 of the Sherman Act.