Google’s spat with online travel companies—and regulators—over the announced acquisition of ITA Software reflects its new reality. Google’s girth means that any acquisition over $500 million or so is going to face intense scrutiny.
The war of words today can be found on Google’s blog and a group called FairSearch.org. Travel sites such as Expedia (EXPE) and Travelocity are arguing that Google will have too much clout with the purchase of ITA. After all, Google could just license the ITA data.
FairSearch.org is a coalition of travel companies opposing Google’s ITA deal. The group includes: Expedia and its Hotwire and TripAdvisor; Farelogix; KAYAK, and its brand SideStep; and Sabre Holdings, which owns Travelocity. The issue for FairSearch.org is that ITA is behind 65 percent of online flight searches. Google’s clout could squeeze online travel companies.
Google argues that it merely wants ITA to show airfares and schedules when users search for flights. Google says that ITA only analyzes data so it’s not a competitive threat. The company added that online travel companies already have ITA rivals.
The big picture here: Something as simple as acquiring ITA raises hackles. At some point, Google, like Microsoft, will be hampered by its inability to acquire companies because of regulators. Whether it’s the AdMob purchase or ITA, Google will have a tough time completing any deal.