Google, ITA decision expected Friday: sources

By @ibtimes on

The Justice Department is likely to announce on Friday that Google can buy airline ticketing software company ITA Software as long as ITA's products remain available to Google's rivals, a source close to the deal said Friday.

A second source said that a deal was looking likely.

Google, the world's No. 1 Internet search engine, said in July it would buy ITA Software for $700 million in cash. The announcement sparked concerns that travel websites such as Kayak and TripAdvisor could be deprived of ITA's software.

ITA's QPX is used by leading airlines and travel distributors like Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Microsoft's Bing and Hotwire, among others.

Kayak.com, for example, asked for assurances that Google would extend its software licenses when they expire, that the software would be upgraded, and that a firewall was placed around the companies' proprietary software -- which ITA can now see -- to protect their intellectual property.

One condition from the Justice Department would touch on licensing of ITA products to Google rivals, said a third source, who spoke privately to protect relationships with the agency.

The ITA buy is part of an acquisition and recruiting spree as Google aims to ensure its online products remain popular as surfers go mobile and turn to new services like the wildly popular Facebook.

But it was not immediately clear if any consent decree would touch on how Google treats potential competitors in search results.

Foundem, a British price comparison website, is one of several companies that have accused Google of manipulating results so that Foundem and other rival websites show up lower in search results. Users overwhelmingly tend to click on the first few results.

Google could not be reached for comment on this story but has said previously that since it does not compete against ITA Software, the deal would not affect competition in the online travel industry and, thus, is legal.

The Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department are reportedly contemplating investigating Google on the issue of search fairness, but any probe would be moot if the issue were resolved as a part of the antitrust assessment of the Google/ITA deal.

European regulators are also looking into Google's search practices.

(Additional reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky; Editing by Dave Zimmerman and Steve Orlofsky)

Join the Discussion