DOJ Approves the Google-ITA Merger but More Antitrust Scrutiny May Be Waiting in the Wings

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The FTC may investigate Google’s practices after the company settles with the DOJ.

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The Department of Justice recently agreed to a settlement with Google – and agreed not to pursue antitrust charges against the company over its $700 million acquisition of ITA, a travel industry software company.

The settlement requires Google to continue developing ITA’s software products and license them to travel vendors on reasonable terms, implement an internal firewall to prevent Google from gaining access to commercially sensitive information of travel vendors licensing ITA’s products, and refrain from entering agreements with airlines that would deprive travel vendors of flight information. If any competitors in the travel industry file complaints about unfair treatment by Google, they must be reported to the DOJ.

ITA’s flagship software product is an airfare pricing system called QPX that is used by prominent travel vendors such as CheapTickets, Kayak, and Orbitz.

Some of ITA’s competitors formed to oppose Google’s acquisition of ITA.  Google insists the merger will “create a new, easier way for users to find better flight information online.”

DOJ’s settlement with Google still must meet with a federal judge’s approval.

Meanwhile, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reportedly may begin a broader antitrust probe into Google’s internet-search business.

(Related The Regulatory Review Essay: The Justice Department’s “Imminent” Decision on the Google-ITA Merger)