Google files to dismiss Ohio lawsuit to declare search engine a public utility

Google files to dismiss Ohio lawsuit to declare search engine a public utility
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Google is seeking to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the Ohio attorney general seeking to declare the search giant a public utility, according to a motion filed Friday. 

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost (R) filed the lawsuit in June, arguing the Silicon Valley giant has used its dominance to prioritize its own products in a way that “intentionally disadvantages competitors.” 

Google’s lawyers argue in the motion that the search giant does not meet the state’s requirements to be considered a common carrier. 

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“Ohio’s Complaint mistakenly assumes Google Search is a common carrier or public utility because Ohioans choose to use Google Search. Under Ohio law, common carriers charge a fee to deliver a standardized service, and public utilities are regulated by a set of state regulations. Google has none of those attributes, and there is no basis in the law to conclude otherwise,” the motion states.

“The whole point of Google Search is to provide results tailored to a specific query. Google Search is not shipping a commodity product, but constantly working to provide useful information in response to people’s unique queries,” it added. 

Yost’s lawsuit is the first of its kind seeking to declare Google a public utility. Doing so would subject the tech giant to further regulation. 

“Google uses its dominance of internet search to steer Ohioans to Google’s own products — that's discriminatory and anti-competitive,” Yost said in a statement at the time he filed the complaint. “When you own the railroad or the electric company or the cellphone tower, you have to treat everyone the same and give everybody access."

But Google’s lawyers argue designating Google a public utility would be akin to doing so for large news publications or retailers. 

“Even assuming all the Attorney General’s allegations are true as one must here, Ohio’s request has no more validity under the law than a request to declare Fox News, the New York Times, or Walmart a ‘public utility’ because most people in a particular town prefer to get their news or groceries from them instead of someone else,” the motion states. 

The Ohio case is one of many legal challenges targeting Google’s market power. 

Google is facing two state-led antitrust lawsuits, one related to its online search market power and another related to competition in the advertising technology market, as well as a case brought by the Justice Department over Google’s search policies. 

The company has pushed back on the allegations of anti-competitive behavior.