International Travel

Expedia ad concerns in search results raised in antitrust suit

Expedia Group chairman Barry Diller has said he was “on the edge of revolt” regarding the number of ads in the company’s Google search engine results pages.

The comment surfaced during Google’s antitrust trial in the United States earlier this week with Diller reportedly making the comment back in 2019.

The Expedia chair said he felt an increasing volume of ads was at the detriment of organic search. According to reports he wrote in a letter, “I must say I’m on the edge of revolt now that Google’s actions are so punitive, not just for Expedia but also for … all the players that depend upon something of a level playing field.”

Google CEO Sundar Pichai took the stand earlier this week to defend the company against claims it abused its dominant position in search and advertising. He testified that Diller was concerned about the search giant’s additional travel listings but described them as “one of the most popular experiences we’ve built.”

It’s not the first time Expedia’s name has come up during the trial. Jeff Hurst, former chief operating officer of the company, said in October that its advertising spend for the vacation rental business had increased tenfold over the space of five years from $21 million to $290 million with no increase in traffic, according to a Bloomberg report.

The claims are significant in terms of how much online travel agencies invest in online marketing, with the majority going to Google. In 2022, for example, Expedia Group, Booking Holdings, Airbnb and Group invested a record $14 billion to help bring traffic to their platforms.

The U.S. government filed its antitrust suit against Google in October 2020, claiming that Google had abused its dominant position in search and advertising to keep competition down. The suit followed an investigation by the Department of Justice the previous year.

At the time, Peter Kern, CEO of Expedia, said, “I’m very pleased to see the government finally taking some action. Hopefully, it will create a fair marketplace for us, which is all we want. We have no ax to grind against Google, except that we don’t think the marketplace is equitable.”

Similar proceedings have been ongoing in Europe since regulators opened an investigation into Google’s practices in mid-2021. Earlier this year, the European Commission ruled that Google had breached European Union antitrust rules through its advertising technology.

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