The US Department of Justice (DoJ) has approved Google's purchase of airline price analysis firm ITA Software, but has set strict conditions for opening up competition in the sector.
Google announced its intention to buy ITA Software in 2010 for $700m, but the deal was stymied by the DoJ on anti-trust grounds. Intensive negotiations followed and the deal has now been approved, albeit with stringent conditions.
ITA Software's QPX software is designed to sort through airline prices and route availability to provide the lowest cost tickets, and is widely used in the travel industry as a replacement for the Sabre series platform.
Under the terms of the deal Google must license the software to other companies, monitor for complaints of anti-competitive behaviour and develop the company's next-generation InstaSearch platform and make it available to other companies.
"The DoJ's proposed remedy promotes robust competition for airfare web sites by ensuring that they will continue to have access to ITA's pricing and shopping software," said Joseph Wayland, deputy assistant attorney general at the DoJ's anti-trust division.
"The proposed settlement [ensures] that airfare comparison and booking web sites will be able to compete effectively, providing benefits to consumers."
Google was quick to agree to the terms set out by the DoJ.
"Today we've formally committed to let ITA's customers extend their contracts into 2016," said Jeff Huber, Google's senior vice president of commerce and local affairs, in a blog post.
"We've also agreed to let current and new customers license ITA's QPX software on "fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms" into 2016, along with related commitments aimed at making ITA's technology available to other travel sites."
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