DOJ Clears Google ITA Bid, with Conditions
Google's $700 million bid for ITA Software is blessed by the DOJ but not without some concessions. Google must continue to make ITA available to customers such as Expedia, Kayak and Microsoft at reasonable terms.The Department of Justice April 8 blessed Google's $700 million acquisition bid as long as the search engine agreed to conditions geared to foster fair competition in the online travel space. Google must develop and license travel software to existing ITA customers at reasonable terms, create internal firewall procedures and continue software research and development to improve the product. For example, Google must hone and license ITA's InstaSearch product to travel Websites when its development is complete, according to the DOJ.
The idea is that airfare comparison and booking Websites such as Expedia, Kayak, Microsoft and others that use ITA's software will be able to continue to benefit from ITA's innovation and compete against any service Google may introduce.
This is the kind of service that Microsoft's Bing Travel portal provides using ITA's QPX software, so in many ways Google is trying to get up to speed with its rivals in the travel search sector. Google is also free to launch its own travel Website under the deal, said a source familiar with the parameters of the DOJ deal. The DOJ, which filed a civil antitrust suit to ensure that Google can resolve its competitive concerns, said it imposed its conditions because Google's original acquisition plans would have impeded competition among flight search Websites in the United States. Ultimately, this would lead to reduced choice and less innovation for consumers, Joseph Wayland, deputy assistant attorney general of the DOJ's Antitrust Division, said in a statement. The DOJ added that Google will also be required to provide mandatory arbitration of deals with customers and provide for a formal reporting mechanism for complainants who believe they are being wronged in business dealings. "By putting in place strong, ongoing oversight and enforcement tools, the Department has ensured that consumers will continue to benefit from vibrant competition and innovation in travel search," claimed FairSearch.org in a statement.