Expedia, Kayak, Sabre Holdings and Farelogix have unveiled the public face to their opposition of the Google-ITA Software deal with the launch of FairSearch.org.
The quartet are named as backers of the site, with Expedia brands TripAdvisor and Hotwire and Sabre's Travelocity also cited as a "group of businesses united in support of a healthy internet future, where greater consumer choice and economic growth are driven by competition, transparency and innovation in online search".
The launch of FairSearch comes as the Department of Justice continues its probe into the deal and Google attempts to appease a nervous industry through talks with online travel agencies and airlines.
The consortium says it stands for two "principles" in online search:
- Transparency: Consumers – not search engines – should choose winners in the marketplace. Consumers benefit from more choices in the search marketplace competing to win users, innovating to improve products and displaying results transparently. When search providers engage in search discrimination – manipulating search results to promote a favored product and punish competitors – consumers pay the price.
- Innovation: Consumers benefit when competition in the marketplace forces companies to continue to innovate and develop the best solutions for online search. No one company should be allowed to use its dominance to foreclose competitors from the search marketplace – particularly in high-traffic specialty segments, like travel, jobs and real estate.
Missing from the consortium at this stage are key ITA customers Orbitz
or any of the airlines which currently use the software firm's system such as United
, US Airways
, Air Canada
A Google official says in reaction to the launch of FairSearch:
"When a user is searching on Google for a flight, we'd like to provide a more useful answer in the form of flight results, just as other search engines do today.
"We plan on building flight search tools that will drive more traffic and potential customers to airlines' and online travel agencies' websites, and so we’ve been encouraged by the support this deal has received from the online travel industry."
Google also says it has received support from a number of industry players (incl commentators on Tnooz.
ITA Software declined to comment.
Expedia is just one of many travel companies which has expressed its concern over the $700 million proposed acquisition announce in June this year, confirming in September that it had held talks with the Department of Justice.
The ramifications of the deal have also been felt across the Atlantic with Amadeuspredicting European regulators are likely to look at the deal amid suggestions that Google should be held to the same oversight in the EU as the GDSs.
FairSearch has produced four presentations outlining the background to the deal, its opposition ("The End of Fair Search"), wider problems around the acquisition and views from experts around the industry (incl Tnooz).
The group is now setting its position in very clear terms and preparing - and seemingly hoping - for a fight:
"Google’s proposal to buy ITA Software, the leading source of critical air fare software used by search engines and travel sites alike, threatens the competitive online travel search market, and could limit the competition and innovation that benefits consumers.
"If the transaction is approved, consumers should expect to face higher prices and less choice when searching for travel online."
Interestingly the consortium is also taking the consumer route, asking for them to support the campaign.