Missouri Attorney General Offers His Aid on Google-ITA Probe

Attorney General Chris Koster of Missouri has offered to assist the U.S. Justice Department in its antitrust probe of Google’s planned acquisition of ITA Software Inc.

“This transaction causes me concern because of its potential impact on the ability of consumers to search online competitively for competitively priced airline fares,” Koster said in a letter yesterday to Christine Varney, head of the department’s antitrust division.

The department is close to deciding whether it would approve Google’s purchase of Cambridge, Massachusetts-based ITA, whose software provides online flight information. Rivals such as Microsoft Corp. and Kayak.com have said the acquisition would reduce competition and hurt consumers.

Google has said the purchase would improve online travel searches. “The acquisition will inject more competition into flight search, not less, and give consumers more options,” Google spokesman Adam Kovacevich said in an e-mail today.

Mountain View, California-based Google disclosed Sept. 3 that Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is conducting an antitrust review of the company. Abbott’s office requested information related to companies including Foundem, a U.K. price comparison website that has also filed complaints against the search engine in Europe.

European antitrust regulators started probing Google in November for allegedly discriminating in its search results, requiring exclusivity obligations with advertising partners and abusing its dominant position by promoting its own services over those of rivals.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jeff Bliss in Washington at jbliss@bloomberg.net Sara Forden in Washington at sforden@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva in Washington at msilva34@bloomberg.net

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