Justice department probes Google's ITA Software deal: report

People walk towards the Google China headquarters in Beijing March 23, 2010. REUTERS/Jason Lee

BANGALORE (Reuters) - The U.S. Justice department is looking into Google Inc's GOOG.O takeover of airline ticketing software firm ITA Software Inc, to determine whether the deal would exert too much influence on the online travel industry, the Wall Street Journal said.

Google bought ITA Software, one of the Web’s key providers of airline travel software, for $700 million in July, in a move that Google said would allow it to improve the way consumers find flight and fare information online.

The Justice department’s probe is at an early stage, the Journal reported, citing people familiar with the department’s review.

Antitrust authorities are focusing on whether rivals would continue to have access to ITA’s data and whether Google would unfairly steer Web searchers to its own travel services, the newspaper said.

Government lawyers are asking executives in the online travel industry if Google could unfairly disadvantage potential new rivals by cutting off their access to ITA’s software, the paper said, citing people familiar with the questioning.

Google had said earlier that the ITA Software deal should not raise antitrust concerns because it does not compete with ITA, the Journal said.

Google and the Department of Justice could not immediately be reached for comment by Reuters outside regular U.S. business hours.

Reporting by Sakthi Prasad in Bangalore; Editing by Dhara Ranasinghe