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DoJ clears Orbitz of antitrust violations

The US Department of Justice has concluded that airline-backed travel site Orbitz has not violated antitrust laws.

After an extensive investigation, the DoJ had concluded that the joint venture has not reduced airline competition or harmed consumers.

"The Division considered several theories of harm, none of which was ultimately borne out by the information collected by the Antitrust Division," R Hewitt Pate, assistant attorney general in charge of the Antitrust Division, said.

"These concerns included whether certain Orbitz contract terms would facilitate co-ordination among the participating airlines or reduce their incentives to discount, resulting in higher fares, and whether those contract terms would make the Orbitz joint venture dominant in online air travel distribution."

The DoJ determined that those terms did not result in higher fares or make Orbitz dominant in the industry.

Jeff Katz, president and chief executive officer of Orbitz, said the DoJ decision was the clearest and most important statement affirming that Orbitz had increased and energised competition in the online travel marketplace.

"Previously, the Department of Transportation inspector general found no evidence of any anticompetitive behaviour by Orbitz and, in fact, determined that Orbitz provides a valuable service to consumers and promotes competition in the travel market," he added.

The DoJ's investigation began before Orbitz was even launched in June 2001. Critics, including online travel sites Expedia.com and Travelocity.com, complained that Orbitz's relationship with the airlines gave it an unfair advantage and would be bad for consumers.

Orbitz is owned by  American Airlines,  United Air Lines, Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines.

Linda Rosencrance writes for Computerworld


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