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Senator Calls On DOJ To Limit Google's ITA Purchase

Citing a litany of concerns over competition, airfare, and technology, a US Senator is calling on the Justice Department to put conditions on Google’s purchase of travel software company ITA.

In a letter to the DOJ on Wednesday, Senator Herb Kohl outlined a number of concerns over Google’s purchase of ITA — the independent software provider that powers many of the top online travel web sites, from individual airline sites to online travel services (Expedia, Orbitz) and aggregators (Kayak, Bing Travel):

“Participants in the on-line travel industry are concerned that Google could refuse to make the key components of ITA software available on reasonable terms to other online travel industry participants by raising the price for a renewed license or refusing to license improvements to the software. Such a course of action, they argue, could effectively degrade competition among air travel search providers and Google could drive more consumers to its own online air travel search services, in the long run harming competition in that market.”

In addition to calling for a “careful review” of the deal, Kohl specifically asks that regulators

  • make sure that Google’s promise to continue licensing the software to third parties is “enforceable and implemented”
  • prohibit Google from “selling search positioning or otherwise biasing its air travel search results in a commercially motivated way”

Asked about the Senator’s letter, a Google spokesperson told Reuters, “We’ve pledged to continue licensing ITA’s search tools to other sites, and hope to drive more potential customers to airline and online travel websites.”

Several major players in the travel industry have joined forces to form FairSearch.org, to fight against the Google-ITA deal.

There’s more discussion on Techmeme.

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