October 18, 2021

Ohio Attorney General Files Lawsuit to Declare Google a Public Utility

From the Office of the Ohio Attorney General:

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost today filed a landmark lawsuit asking the court to declare Google a public utility, reining in the ways the powerful search engine provides search results to Ohioans.

“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.”

Ohio is the first state in the country to bring such a lawsuit.

The lawsuit, filed in Delaware County Court, asserts two causes of action against Google:

  • It seeks a legal declaration that Google is a common carrier (or public utility) subject to proper government regulation.
  • It says Google has a duty to offer sources or competitors rights equal to its own, meaning it should not prioritize the placement of its own products, services and websites on search results pages. Those equal rights should extend to advertisements, enhancements, knowledge boxes, integrated specialized searches, direct answers and other features.

The lawsuit does not seek money damages.

In plain terms, Yost argues Ohioans are harmed by Google because they cannot make the best choices if they don’t get all of the information. For example, if someone searches for a flight and Google returns its own presentation of search results to steer the person to Google Flights, the person doesn’t see offers from competitors such as Orbitz and Travelocity.

Direct to Complete Statement

Direct to Complete Court Filing
17 pages; PDF.

From The Dispatch (Columbus, OH):

In a statement, Google said Google Search is designed to provide people with the most relevant and helpful results and the Ohio lawsuit would make it harder for small businesses to connect directly with customers.

“Ohioans simply don’t want the government to run Google like a gas or electric company,” the company said in a statement. “This lawsuit has no basis in fact or law and we’ll defend ourselves against it in court.”

Direct to Full Text Article

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

Share