The top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee is calling on the Justice Department to "carefully review" Google's proposed acquisition of travel software provider ITA Software to ensure competition in the online travel search market is protected.
"This is a significant matter, as travel and tourism play a critical and ever increasing role in the U.S. economy, with the online travel industry accounting for $80 billion and nearly 40 percent of all e-commerce activity in 2009," Judiciary ranking member John Conyers of Michigan said in a letter Friday to Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust Christine Varney. "I urge you to review the proposed deal carefully to ensure competition and transparency will be protected in the online travel industry."
Noting the "difficulties" in weighing such transactions, Conyers said many of these issues were highlighted in a report released last week by the American Antitrust Institute, "which concludes that an investigation of the proposed transaction is warranted."
Justice has been weighing the proposed deal for months. It is opposed by several online search sites that worry that Google will leverage its dominance in search to hamper competition in online travel search.
The AAI report urged close scrutiny of the deal by the Justice Department. "Google would own what many consider to be the premier technology that online travel agents, travel meta-search websites, and airline websites license from ITA to afford Internet users the ability to search real-time pricing and seat availability data in the course of shopping for airline tickets online," the report said. "Neither Google nor ITA currently competes in the provision of this data to Internet users by "online travel search" firms, but together they seem to have such firms surrounded."
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