Google Inc won the approval of the US Justice Department for its $700-million purchase of ITA Software Inc on the condition that it would make travel data available to search-engine rivals and let the government review any complaints of unfair acts.
Google agreed to license ITA’s travel information software to third parties, put up firewalls protecting client data and set up an arbitration process for disputes over fees. The Justice Department reached the consent decree after an eight- month review.
“The proposed settlement assures that airfare comparison and booking websites will be able to compete effectively, providing benefits for consumers,” Deputy Assistant Attorney General Joseph Wayland said. The proposed settlement must be approved by a federal judge.
The resolution of the matter allows the government to consider a larger investigation of California- based Google, operator of the world’s largest search engine. The Federal Trade Commission, which also oversees US antitrust laws, is exploring a possible probe of Google’s search business, two people familiar with that matter said this week.
“We’re moving to close this acquisition as soon as possible,” Google said in an online posting, adding it had formally committed to let ITA’s customers extend their contracts into 2016 and to let both current and new customers license ITA’s QPX software on “fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms.” There are no limits under this agreement as to what the company can do in travel search, said Google spokesman Adam Kovacevich.