Microsoft Joins FairSearch.org to Oppose Google ITA Bid

 
 
By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-12-14
 
 
 

Microsoft Dec. 13 joined the FairSearch.org coalition, an organization formed to contest Google's $700 million purchase bid for online travel data provider ITA Software.

ITA sells flight and airfare data to leading travel companies Hotwire, TripAdvisor, Kayak and others. These rivals, along with Expedia, Sabre Holding and others, forged the FairSearch.org coalition.

Microsoft is also an ITA customer, paying the company for data that powers its flight search tool on Bing Travel. Clearly, it makes sense that Microsoft would support FairSearch.org.

"Microsoft is joining FairSearch.org to help raise awareness of how the proposed Google-ITA merger could hurt travelers by slowing innovation and contributing to higher travel costs," the company told MarketWatch.

FairSearch.org in October asked the Justice Department to block Google's bid for ITA because it believes it would afford Google too much power over the online travel sector they toil in. The DOJ issued a second request for information from Google.

Google already fuels more than 30 percent of all search engine traffic to online travel sites, according to Experian Hitwise.

If Google were to acquire ITA, the FairSearch.org members argued that Google could freeze them out of their own markets, or jack up costs to access the ITA data. These companies also fear Google could prioritize its own travel search results over links to their own travel info.

"The end result could be higher travel prices, fewer travel choices for consumers and businesses, and less innovation in online travel search," FairSearch.org said in a statement.

Google, which said it wants to create tools that will make it easier for users to search for flights, compare flight options and purchase tickets, repeatedly said it would honor all existing agreements in the spirit of fair competition.

Other new FairSearch.org members include U.K.-based vertical search engine Foundem, French travel agency association Level.com and Singapore-based travel agency ZUJI.

Foundem is embroiled in another battle versus Google. The search engine joined Microsoft's Ciao and eJustice to complain to the European Commission that Google prioritizes its own Google Product Search results over their own.

The Commission, which is believed to seek guidance from Microsoft in this matter, is formally investigating the complaint.

Google is also taking grief from smaller rivals in local search for pushing down their results on Google.com and Google Maps in favor of its own Place Page results for local businesses.

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