Google has recently been cleared by the US Justice Department to go ahead with its planned $700 million acquisition of flight-data software company ITA; however, several compromises will be required of Google based on concerns over the implications for competition in this industry. Apart from this, the company is being seriously criticized by competitors, and a lobbying effort has been launched on Capitol Hill.
Among the requirements of the Justice Department is the development of ITA’s InstaSearch software, and additionally offer it to travel sites. Also, the Google must implement firewalls as protective and preventative measures for ITA’s customers’ protection. The Justice Department has also established grounds to monitor the progress of Google’s implementation of these measures.
ITA’s fare tracking software currently powers the most powerful airline-ticket sites, and the purchase, according to Google, is intended to help Google provide more relevant information to customers when comparing ticket prices online.
With respect to critics, there are plenty to be had. Microsoft, Expedia, Kayak.com, and Sabre Holdings to name a few of the core opponents, expressed concerns over the potential for a monopoly being formed as a result of this acquisition. These companies among many others have formed a lobbying effort at FairSearch.org to continue to oppose the purchase.
Tom Barnett, former head of the Justice Department’s antitrust unit and current counsel to Expedia on this matter, says that the most recent decision by the Department of Justice fails to seriously address the broader issue of Google’s preponderance in the Internet search engine industry. The potential for abuse, is significant. Additionally, the issue of whether or not Google’s ownership of this software would limit access to the software for rivals and competitors in the flight-comparison website industry. On an international level the European Union has also begun to investigate the issue. On this news Google’s stock has dropped 0.3% to $578.32 per share according to the Wall Street Journal.
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