Ohio Attorney General Files Lawsuit Seeking Order Declaring Google a Public Utility

According to a press release issued on Tuesday, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost asked Ohio’s Delaware County Court to declare Google a public utility in so far as its operation of Google Search renders it a common carrier. The objective of the lawsuit, Yost explained, is to exercise control over the way Google’s search engine provides results to his constituents. Ohio is the first state to file such a complaint, the announcement noted.

The filing alleged that Google dominates online searches globally. Though the tech giant’s stated mission is to organize information and make it accessible and useful to all, “what Google fails to disclose to its user is that it manipulates its presentation of that information to preference its own services, yielding search results that best benefit the interests of Google,” the attorney general contended.

The complaint described a public utility, which would provide “a product or service to the public generally and indiscriminately.” Further, it stated that a private entity’s services become public when they serve “a substantial part of the public in a way that makes its methods of operations a matter of public concern, welfare, and interest.”

The complaint also explained why the lawsuit belongs in Ohio state court rather than federal court, and invoked Ohio common law for its two causes of action. 

In the news release, Yost commented that “Google uses its dominance of internet search to steer Ohioans to Google’s own products—that’s discriminatory and anti-competitive. When you own the railroad or the electric company or the cellphone tower, you have to treat everyone the same and give everybody access.”