Google-ITA Deal Frightens Even More Legislators
A few more hurdles for Google to overcome as it works to wrap up its now seven-months-pending acquisition of flight information software company ITA. This week Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster added his voice to those of critics who say the deal might hamper competition in the online-travel market. Koster, it’s worth noting, chairs the antitrust committee of the National Association of Attorneys General.
“This transaction causes me concern because of its potential impact on the ability of consumers to search online for competitively priced airline fares in a market that has seen rapid growth,” wrote Koster wrote in a letter to Assistant Attorney General Christine Varney dated Feb. 9 (full letter below). “Ensuring that new sellers can gain meaningful entry into this market, and that all sellers can compete against each other fairly, is our mutual concern.”
Evidently a broadly held one, too.
Because Koster’s letter wasn’t the only one Varney received yesterday. Rep. Howard Coble (R-NC) and Rep. Thomas Petri (R-WI) also wrote to her, again urging close scrutiny of the deal. “We ask that your ongoing review pay particular attention to competitive issues involving consumers, the online ad market and the protection of intellectual property,” they wrote (full letter below). Their chief concern: The possibility that Google might use its dominant position in search and advertising to steer consumers to its travel services, limiting competition.
This, of course, is something that Google insists it would never do. “This acquisition will inject more competition into flight search, not less, and give consumers more options,” the company said in a statement. “Of course, the antitrust laws aren’t designed to protect incumbent companies from new competition, but to make sure that consumers benefit from more competition and innovation.”
Tell that to the DOJ, which has been reviewing the proposed $700 million deal for months and, as NewEnterprise recently noted, has prepared documents for a possible challenge to the acquisition.