The American Antitrust Institute (AAI) has stated the proposed acquisition of ITA Software by Google may be "straining the boundaries of antitrust analysis, but serious consideration of a challenge is warranted."
The organization has issued a White Paper discussing this.
"Apart from the very difficult analysis, this transaction raises broader questions of competition policy concerning Google’s rapid growth as a one-of-a-kind firm," said AAI President Bert Foer.
The AAI says, "Governmental efforts to protect against manipulation of algorithms by Google are not only likely to be ineffective, but they will necessarily raise First Amendment questions as the government participates in decisions about the prioritization of information reaching the public. 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."
Here’s a snippet from a press release from the AAI:
The white paper explores both the narrow and broad competition issues that are raised by a Google/ITA combination. In the narrowest sense, the AAI says acquiring ITA would put Google in the business of supplying a technology input that powers downstream products in a vertical online search market. That is, 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. Neither Google nor ITA currently competes in the provision of this data to Internet users by "online travel search" firms, but together they effectively have such firms surrounded.
Foer said, "The Division must acknowledge the risk that Google may acquire market power in the online travel search market or the technology input market, along with the risk that Google’s control of ITA would lead to foreclosure or other exclusionary effects, whether directly or indirectly. The Division should also consider whether the transaction might have the effect of raising barriers to entry into the broader online search market, which Google already dominates."
It’s worth noting that the announcement of the White Paper was sent to us by a representative for the FairSearch Coalition, which has made a mission out of having this Google-ITA deal blocked.
You can see both sides of the debate argued by Google and FairSearch here.