Google's ITA deal was blessed by the DOJ, but FairSearch.org says the resulting decree may have opened the door for further regulatory scrutiny into Google's search practices.
Google's $700 million
acquisition bid for travel search software maker ITA Software passed muster
with the Justice Department April 8, which is a big win for the search engine.
Google will use ITA's flight
fare and scheduling software to improve travel search results on Google.com,
similar to the way Microsoft's Bing search engine does
on its Bing Travel portal
However, the DOJ imposed
a number of conditions for Google to meet if it is to allow the deal to be
Google must develop and
license travel software
to existing ITA customers at reasonable terms,
create internal 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.
The idea is that airfare
comparison and booking Websites, such as Kayak, Hotwire, Microsoft and others
that use ITA's software, will be able to leverage ITA's latest technology to
compete against any service Google may introduce.
These terms have assuaged
the concerns of opponents such as FairSearch.org, which Expedia, Kayak and
others forged to make sure the DOJ scrutinizes the Google ITA.
Google gets the goods to
build better travel search tools. FairSearch.org gets the restrictions it
wished for. In the words of Charlie Sheen, both sides can cry
believes it may get more than it bargained for now that DOJ has had the
opportunity to scrutinize Google's search business.
Kayak Chief Marketing Officer Robert Birge and Thomas Barnett, who as a former
assistant attorney general led the DOJ's Antitrust Division from 2005 to 2008
and currently counsels Expedia, said the DOJ's documentation shows the agency has a continued interest in monitoring Google.
Barnett said the DOJ noted
that the proposed decree did not resolve issues related to "section
2" of the Sherman
, which prohibits single companies from undermining "the
competitive process and thereby enables a firm to acquire, credibly threaten to
acquire or maintain monopoly power."