The US Justice Department said today that it will allow Internet search and advertising giant Google Inc. to acquire Cambridge travel software firm ITA Software Inc., but only under conditions intended to prevent Google from gaining too much power over the online travel industry.
“The proposed settlement assures that airfare comparison and booking websites will be able to compete effectively, providing benefits to consumers," said Joseph Wayland, a deputy assistant attorney general in the Justice Department's antitrust division.
The department tiled a civil antitrust lawsuit today in US District Court in Washington to block the ITA acquisition, but it simultaneously filed a proposed settlement. If it's approved by the court, the Justice Department will drop its objections to the acquisition.
The settlement would require Google to keep licensing ITA's software to competing online travel sites at a reasonable price. Google could also have to continue research and development to make future improvements in the software.
Google will also be required to set up firewalls to ensure that the company can't gain access to sensitive information collected by ITA's customers. Also, Google won't be allowed to enter into arrangements with airlines that would limit their sharing of seat and booking information with Google's competitors.