Google Allowed to Takeover ITA Software, But Not Without Conditions: DOJ
The department required Google to develop license travel software, establish internal firewall procedures and to continue software research and development. In July 2010, Google agreed to purchase ITA Software, a producer of airfare pricing and shopping systems, for a $700 million.
The original proposed acquisition would have provided Google with substantially less competition among providers of comparative flight search websites in the United States, resulting in reduced choice and less innovation for consumers, according to the government.
On Friday, the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division filed a civil antitrust lawsuit in U.S. District Court to block the proposed acquisition. At the same time, the department filed a proposed settlement that, if approved by the court, would resolve the competitive concerns of the lawsuit.
“The proposed settlement assures that airfare comparison and booking websites will be able to compete effectively, providing benefits to consumers,” said Joseph Wayland, Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Antitrust Division. “It also ensures those websites will continue to have access to ITA’s pricing and shopping software.”
Under the proposal, Google will be required to continue to license ITA’s QPX software to airfare websites on commercially reasonable terms. Such software is used for conducting searches for air travel fares, schedules and availability.
Google will also be required to further develop and offer ITA’s next generation InstaSearch product to travel websites, which will provide near instantaneous results to certain types of flexible airfare search queries and is currently in development.
Furthermore, Google will have to implement firewall restrictions within the company to prevent abuse of commercially sensitive information. The proposed settlement delineates when and for what purpose that data may be used by Google.
Google was also prohibited from entering into agreements with airlines that could restrict the air carrier’s right to share seat and booking information with Google’s competitors.