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Washington, D.C., June 11, 2002—Tomorrow, a commission created by Congress begins hearings on the impact of travel Web sites on consumers and travel agents, but CEI Senior Fellow James V. DeLong says it’s just the latest example of a dangerous trend: “efforts by industry participants to try to use antitrust arguments as an excuse to stifle innovation.”<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
In a recent paper  published by the Cato Institute, DeLong described current attacks on Orbitz, the travel Web site recently established by several airlines, as “part of a larger assault on e-commerce being conducted by middlemen who fear erosion of monopoly economic power.”
According to the Department of Transportation, the National Commission to Ensure Consumer Information and Choice in the Airline Industry “was created by Congress to study the market position and general condition of retail travel agents in today’s competitive markets.” It will examine the financial condition of travel agents and the effect any decline would have on consumers, and determine whether there are any impediments to information and their effects on travel agents, Internet-based distributors, and consumers.
Orbitz, which has quickly become a market leader by posting the lowest fares, is already being investigated by the Department of Transportation—again—because it wants to make sure the company is not being “anticompetitive.” But, says Mr. DeLong, “The antitrust laws should not be used as a barrier to changes that will benefit consumers.”
The Commission hearing will be held at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, June 12 at 10 a.m.
Mr. DeLong’s study, Online Travel Services: The Antitrust Assault on Orbitz—and on Consumers, is available here .
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