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DoJ double eyes Google flight data play

$700m airline search pact under microscope

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Google's proposed $700 million acquisition of flight data outfit ITA Software is receiving extra scrutiny from the US Department of Justice.

On Friday, with a blog post, Google told the world that it has received a "second request" from the DoJ, meaning the feds want additional information as they continue to review the deal.

In announcing the proposed acquisition earlier this month, the web giant was already on the defensive against would-be antitrust scrutiny. Google said it had agreed to buy ITA – which specializes in organizing airline data such as flights times, availability, and prices – because it wants to expand its flight search services, and it made a point of saying that it "won't be setting airfare prices and has no plans to sell airline tickets to consumers" and that "the deal will not change existing market shares."

With Friday's blog post, it gave the usual line about people watching it closer just because it's so darn good at what it does. "While we think this acquisition will benefit travelers as well as those seeking their business, we know that closer scrutiny has been one consequence of Google's success, and we said that we wouldn’t be surprised if there were a regulatory review before the deal closes," the company said. "While this means we won't be closing the deal right away, we're confident that the DOJ will conclude that online travel will remain competitive after this acquisition closes."

Google's $750m acquisition of mobile ad outfit AdMob was delayed six months by a Federal Trade Commission review, amid concerns that it would give Google too large a share of the burgeoning market for mobile ads. Though, according to Google, its ITA deal will not change existing market shares, the European Union has received complaints over the company's ability to leverage its search monopoly in other markets, including online mapping and price comparison.

Google also says that it will continue to work with ITA's existing customers and that online travel companies have alternatives to ITA's product. ®

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