U.S. DoJ says Google can acquire ITA

The U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) has approved Google’s $700 million acquisition of flight-data company ITA. However, the department made the lucrative purchase contingent upon several conditions.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Mountain View is required to license ITA’s software to online airfare search sites for five years on a “reasonable and nondiscriminatory” basis.

In addition, the Internet search giant must continue to fund R&D of ITA’s software, while implementing “internal firewalls” to prevent the unauthorized use of sensitive information.

Finally, Google has agreed to allow the Justice Department to track its compliance with the above-mentioned stipulations.

“It’s important to us that ITA continue with business as usual, providing great service to its business partners. We indicated last July that we would honor ITA’s existing contracts,” Jeff Huber, Google Senior VP, Commerce and Local, explained in an official blog post.

“[And] we’ve formally committed to let ITA’s customers extend their contracts into 2016. We’ve also agreed to let both current and new customers license ITA’s QPX software on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms into 2016 – along with related commitments aimed at making ITA’s technology available to other travel sites. We’re confident that by combining ITA’s expertise with Google’s technology we’ll be able to develop exciting new flight search tools for all our users.”

Jonathan Zuck, president of the Association for Competitive Technology (ACT), reacted with “measured optimism” to the DOJ’s stipulations, saying they illustrate the department’s “understanding” of Google’s ability to leverage its dominant position.

“Today’s decision by the Justice Department is a good start on what must be a longer investigatory process. Until the industry has greater transparency on how Google search results are created, technology companies will continue to operate at the whim of the search giant,” Zuck told TG Daily in an e-mailed statement. 

“Already declared a monopoly by DoJ, Google openly admits it favors its own properties in search results over competitors. The Justice Department has yet to address Google’s admitted manipulation of search results, but we are cautiously optimistic that antirust regulators will continue to look into Google’s anticompetitive practices.”