Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost on Tuesday filed a lawsuit requesting a court declare Google a public utility that can be regulated by the government as such.
The lawsuit, filed in a state court, alleged that the tech giant uses its market power as the top search engine to give preferential treatment to its own products, services, and apps on search results pages, thereby disadvantaging competitors.
“Google uses its dominance of internet search to steer Ohioans to Google’s own products — that’s discriminatory and anti-competitive,” Yost, a Republican, said in a statement. “When you own the railroad or the electric company or the cellphone tower, you have to treat everyone the same and give everybody access.”
The lawsuit said almost 67% of Google searches started and ended on Google-owned platforms, with users typically starting on Google’s search page and then being led to another of its services, such as YouTube, Google Maps, Google News, or Google Shopping.
The lawsuit does not seek monetary damages but rather greater government control over how Google runs its business.
In December, Ohio and 37 other states accused Google of violating antitrust laws by prioritizing its own sites and services over those of competitors. The Justice Department has also filed an antitrust lawsuit alleging that Google engaged in anti-competitive business practices.
Google pushed back on the assertion that it needs to be treated like a public utility, saying that such regulations would make its search results worse and make it harder for small businesses to connect 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.”