Antitrust Advocacy Group Says Google-ITA Merger Could Be "Unregulatable Monopoly"

As U.S. regulators continue to ponder the fate of Google’s $700 million acquisition of ITA software, the American Antitrust Institute is speaking out against it.

ITA Software maintains a database of flight information, including fare comparison and flight schedules, for many major U.S. airlines, including American and United Airlines. Companies such as Kayak.com and Expedia.com are opposing the merger because they claim it will stifle competition.

Google maintains that it is only trying to improve travel-related search since it is among its highest-volume queries. Its goal will be to refer people quickly to a site where they can actually purchase flights–and it doesn’t have plans to sell flights itself, according to a site that answers questions about the deal.

But the American Antitrust Institute’s concerns are more complex than whether Google is buying ITA to compete with online travel agencies.

It says the merger warrants a deep look because a deal of this nature will strain the boundaries of antitrust analysis and raise First Amendment questions as the government participates in decisions about the prioritization of information reaching the public.

In a release today, the non-profit explains: “Maintaining competitive markets for both general and niche search may be the only alternative, ultimately, to an unregulatable monopoly. It is therefore appropriate for the Division, employing a statute intended to stop monopoly in its incipiency, to work within a public vision of longer-term developments and to place the present acquisition within such a context.”

It’s not the first group to come out against the deal. FairSearch.org has been particularly active, and Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, who chairs the antitrust committee of the National Association of Attorneys General, questions whether the deal would hamper competition in the online travel market.

FairSearch.org produced this video to explain why a merger should not take place:

Google Buys ITA – A Travel Story from FairSearch.org on Vimeo.

And here’s a video from Google:


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