DOJ approves Google's ITA deal ... with caveats

By David Goldman, staff writer


NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Google can have its precious flight data company if it promises to play nice, the Department of Justice said on Friday.

The DOJ approved the $700 million takeover deal between Google, the world's largest search company, and ITA, the world's largest airline search software company, provided that Google accept certain restrictions.

The search giant would have to continue to licence ITA's software to airfare websites "on commercially reasonable terms." Google (GOOG, Fortune 500) would also be required to maintain and enhance that software in a manner consistent with ITA's research and development investment over the past several years.

The company would also have to put an internal firewall in place to prevent Google from accessing "competitively sensitive information" gathered from ITA's customers. Google also can't enter in exclusive contracts with airlines that would prevent the airlines from providing certain ticketing information to the search company's competitors.

"The Department of Justice's proposed remedy promotes robust competition for airfare websites by ensuring those websites will continue to have access to ITA's pricing and shopping software," Joseph Wayland, deputy assistant attorney general of the Department of Justice's Antitrust Division, said in a prepared statement.

The worry, of course, is that Google maintains a 65% share of the search market. If its access to flight information is superior to its rivals, it could easily shut out the competition.

Boston-based ITA specializes in organizing airline data, including flight times, availability and prices. Its data is used on a host of websites like Kayak, Orbitz, Expedia.com, TripAdvisor and Microsoft's (MSFT, Fortune 500) Bing, as well as a number of airlines' websites.

FairSearch.org, a group representing Expedia and Kayak, said Friday that it was pleased with the DOJ's terms for the deal, calling it a "clear win for consumers." Kayak, with backing from Expedia.com, had offered last year to buy ITA to prevent Google from purchasing it.

When it announced the ITA deal last July, Google said it had no intention of selling airline tickets, but it would likely direct consumers to sites on which they can buy tickets. Google's users already come to the site for travel searches, but find it difficult to express flight queries through the current search tools, the company said.

With its ITA purchase, Google said it intends to make airline searches simpler. The company painted a picture of the online travel landscape as one of mass confusion, with thousands of options and unclear ticket pricing and availability.

For instance, Google could use ITA's software to field more advanced searches, like "Where can I travel for $700?"

The proposal still needs to gain approval from a federal judge. The DOJ's Antitrust Division filed an antitrust lawsuit Friday in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., to block the deal. The DOJ then filed a proposed settlement with all the restrictive terms that, the Justice Department said, would alleviate those antitrust concerns.

A Google representative was not immediately available for comment on the proposed settlement's terms.  To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,279.74 13.75 0.08%
Nasdaq 4,579.79 -13.64 -0.30%
S&P 500 2,010.40 -0.96 -0.05%
Treasuries 2.59 -0.04 -1.60%
Data as of 12:53am ET
Company Price Change % Change
Yahoo! Inc 40.93 -1.16 -2.74%
Microsoft Corp 47.52 0.84 1.80%
Bank of America Corp... 16.95 -0.09 -0.53%
Oracle Corp 39.80 -1.75 -4.21%
Facebook Inc 77.91 0.91 1.18%
Data as of Sep 19

Sections

7,000 Ravens fans traded Ray Rice jerseys for one with another player's name. The team gave vouchers after it ran out of replacement jerseys. More

It's really good to be Larry Ellison. The Oracle founder is stepping down as CEO, so maybe he'll have more time to enjoy his glamorous life. More

As Occupy Wall Street goes on its debt-abolishing tear, thousands of people across the country are begging them to forgive their loans. More

Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.