FairSearch coalition sets out case against Google ITA deal

Opponents to Google’s buy-out of technology firm ITA have formed a coalition aimed at forcing regulators to challenge the $700 million deal.

FairSearch.org, which has Expedia, Kayak, Lastminute.com parent Sabre Holdings and TripAdvisor among its founding members, claims the deal will lead to higher prices and less consumer choice.

Steve Hafner, chief executive and co-founder of Kayak, said: “ITA’s technology has made it the software provider of choice for many online players throughout the travel industry, including a number of Google’s competitors in air travel search.

“We founded Kayak to give travel consumers access to more choices and lower prices, but this deal could result in just the opposite.”

The coalition will lobby the Justice Department in the US to challenge a deal it says will hand Google control over the software that powers most of its rivals.

FairSearch.org claimed ITA provides the technology behind 65% of all carrier-direct online flight searches in the US, and its flight search software powers six of the top ten air carriers in the US.

Dara Khosrowshahi, chief executive of Expedia, said:  “Combining Google and ITA raises some serious concerns for travelers and the online travel industry as a whole.

“We support this coalition because we believe consumers deserve transparency, and that they – not search engines – should choose winners and losers in online travel.”

The coalition quoted Thomas Barnett, who served as Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division from 2005 to 2008 and who serves as counsel to Expedia.

He said: “ITA plays a crucial role in online flight search and has been a key driver of competition and innovation in online travel. 

“The Justice Department needs to thoroughly investigate the proposed acquisition and to take whatever action is necessary to prevent harm to consumers in online flight search as well as online travel search more generally.”


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