It was only a matter of time before the anti Google-ITA Software deal campaign group FairSearch responded to last week's major broadside from Google.
The attack (in a guest post on Tnooz from Google senior product manager Andrew Silverman) rounded on the FairSearch group, claiming "so far the only voices complaining are competitors, not consumers" and that critics "apparently think consumers should be satisfied with the status quo".
These comments, amongst others, constituted the most vociferous defence of Google's position since the FairSearch group came together in late-October.
FairSearch has now hit back.
In a blog post on the lobbying group's website, FairSearch says rather than address concerns over "the future of innovation, transparency and consumer choice in online travel search" it is disappointing to see Google attack the ITA's customers (Kayak) "who have raised legitimate concerns" over their ability to access flight data after contracts expire.
"...if Google is allowed to use ITA to consolidate the online travel search market, leading to higher advertising rates, those costs could get passed on to consumers in the form of higher ticket prices."
The post then goes on to outline five key areas, in what it calls a candid examination of the facts:
ITA is the leading provider of flight pricing and availability data for U.S. airlines and travel sites, and it is estimated to power the majority of all online flight searches.ITA’s customers, many of whom pay Google for advertising to drive traffic to their sites, have invested heavily in developing customized innovations in online travel technology on top of ITA, advances that are reliant on its software.Google has pledged to honor ITA’s “existing agreements,” which are, in fact, legally-binding contracts.Google has refused to comment on what will happen once those contracts expire – this lack of a response heightens ITA customers’ concerns about their ability to license the company’s best technology and most up-to-date flight data in the future.By acquiring ITA, Google will be in a position to potentially undermine other providers of online travel search – and it will have the incentive to undermine ITA’s current customers so that Google can increase online travel searches on its own site, giving it the ability to recover higher advertising fees over time.
FairSearch goes on to hit back at Silverman over remarks about the group claiming Google should not be allowed to improve the results it delivers to users through airfares and schedules.
The group says it is pro-competition as it "drives innovation, provides consumers with more choices and incentivizes [sic] airlines and other travel service providers to keep prices lower".
"Google is setting up a future where there will be less competition and less choice in travel search. The dominant search provider will become the dominant travel search provider - by force, not by consumer choice."
More to come in this saga, no doubt.