Sunday, July 06, 2008

Ireland's first case on the legality of screen scraping?

The Sunday Business post reports that Ryanair has started proceedings in the High Court against Bravofly seeking to prevent it from screen-scraping the Ryanair site in order to provide users with a portal through which they can compare fares across airlines.

Ryanair have been trying to block screen scrapers for some time now. Most recently they were rapped on the knuckles by the ASA for placing advertisements telling consumers that:

"IF YOU BUY A RYANAIR TICKET THRU AN ONLINE AGENT YOU'RE BEING RIPPED OFF... *THEY OVERCHARGE BY 100% OR MORE *THEY DON'T PROVIDE CORRECT TERMS AND CONDITIONS *THEY DON'T NOTIFY SCHEDULE CHANGES *THEY DON'T PROVIDE WEB CHECK-IN OR PRIORITY BOARDING"
This seems to be the first time, though, that they have resorted to legal proceedings and the first time that the Irish courts will consider the legality of screen scraping. From the report in the Sunday Business Post it would seem that Ryanair is primarily relying on the restrictions imposed by its terms of use, but presumably we'll see argument as to whether screen scraping violates their rights under the Database Directive (though whether this claim will stand up in light of the British Horseracing Board caselaw is another matter). OUT-LAW have some analysis of the uncertain position under English law, while this article in the Loyola Consumer Law Review gives an up to date summary of the position under US law.

Update 8.07.08 - The Irish Independent and Irish Times have more details. From the Irish Times:
Ryanair has claimed the alleged "screen-scraping" activities of Bravofly breach provisions of the Trademarks Act and the Copyright and Related Rights Act, amount to "passing off" and also breach the conditions for accessing the Ryanair website.

It claims that Bravofly, without permission from Ryanair, has offered detailed information on Ryanair's flight services and had also used Ryanair's name and harp device logo in presenting that information.

It also claims that Bravofly has established and maintains hypertext links from its websites to the Ryanair website, without Ryanair's authorisation.

Ryanair claims it had written to Bravofly asking for undertakings that the screen-scraping activities would cease but no such undertakings had been received.

Ryanair is seeking court orders restraining the alleged activities and also wants damages, including exemplary damages, and/or an account of profits for alleged negligence and/or wrongful interference with Ryanair's economic interests and contractual relations.

The airline contends the matter is of real commercial significance as its website is at the heart of its marketing and sales strategy and some 98 per cent of its flight bookings are transacted via the website. Any action which wrongfully impinges on the effectiveness of the Ryanair website has an impact on sales and marketing activities and the attractiveness of the website as a platform for the advertising and sale of third-party goods and services, it says. It claims the activities of Bravofly are diverting potential business from Ryanair.

4 comments:

  1. I wonder do they just not get it, or is this a commercial move.

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  2. I think the Irish Times piece answers that question - "Any action which wrongfully impinges on the effectiveness of the Ryanair website has an impact on sales and marketing activities and the attractiveness of the website as a platform for the advertising and sale of third-party goods and services".

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  3. Its a commercial move. Screen scraping levels the playing field and brings transparency to the market.

    The reality is that Ryanair spends millions on being known as the low fares airline. A transparent comparison means consumers would realise there are in some instances cheaper options.

    Thats one reason, the other is of course cross selling hotels, cars etc...

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  4. The main reason why customers choose Bravofly is because of its ease of use and its ability to compare various offers from airline operators.

    Following Ryanair’s statements accusing Bravofly of conducting illegal sales of Ryanair flights, Bravofly explains the complete legitimacy of its activity, which guaranties users the possibility to compare flight offers and to choose the best option for them.

    July 28th, 2008 – Ryanair has accused Bravofly, the leading online search engine in Europe that allows users to compare and to buy flights offered by the most important airline companies, of committing illegal acts due to the way in which Bravofly presents Ryanair’s flight information on its website and because it allows users to buy tickets directly on Bravofly’s website.

    These accusations have no foundation.

    Bravofly provides a wide array of services and gives its users the possibility to:

    1) find information and available flights for required routes (flight time, direct flights or with stopovers)
    2) compare the prices being offered by various airline companies
    3) search for the best prices for flexible dates.

    Once the user has found the flight that best suits his needs, he can purchase the ticket directly, with no need for a new connection to the flight provider’s website.

    Bravofly offers all these services, as well as its pricing process, with a high level of market transparency. In fact, users can clearly see on Bravofly’s websites (volagratis.it; bravofly.com; bravofly.fr; bravofly.es, bravofly.de, bravofly.co.uk) the price of the flight (that is strictly determined by the airline company), and the service costs added by Bravofly.

    Moreover, users are informed of the travel rules and regulations imposed by the airline company, including information about online booking for checked-in luggage. Also, in order to provide users with a simpler more direct means of communication, Bravofly offers complete assistance thanks to its customer service – Bravofly supplies users with information and support whenever there are any changes to a flight.

    Every airline company’s best offers are displayed on Bravofly’s website so that the user can choose the most convenient solution, while using Bravofly’s custom developed advanced search tools (such as the table showing the best prices for the week, timetable filters, departure and arrival airport options, and many more). Once the user has chosen a flight, he can decide to process his purchase request using the web application provided by Bravofly – it is easy to use and is the same for all airline companies.

    These services allow users to save time, to deal with the same quality and the same personalisation when booking their flights (even if booking with different airline companies) and furthermore, they can use a familiar centralised system. Therefore, Internet users are willing to pay a little more for these additional useful services.

    It is entirely to the user’s discretion to use any or all of Bravofly’s aforementioned services.

    Some users prefer to use Bravofly’s websites uniquely to obtain information about available flights – they may then decide to purchase their flight directly from the airline company’s website. Bravofly encourages all users to use its websites offering the best service for searching, comparing, booking flights, as well as offering the best assistance before and after the flight purchase. It is thanks to its ability to compare several offers, to the ease of use of its booking system, to the quality of its customer service and assistance, both on the internet and in their call centers and to all its additional services that over 3000 people choose Bravofly’s websites every day in order to book their airline ticket, instead of making a new connection to the homepage of the airline companies.

    A choice that is made in complete respect with European regulations; so much so that Bravofly has already requested that the competent tribunals address the legitimacy of Bravofly’s offered services and Ryanair’s unfounded position.

    Ryanair’s position against Bravofly is part of its general tendency to take legal recourse against the most important websites that offer flight price comparisons and airline ticket purchases. This clearly demonstrates that Ryanair aims to prevent travellers from having access to precise information about the best prices.

    In November 2007, the Tribunal of Commerce in Paris declared that Ryanair’s demands against other operators was unfounded.

    In order to stop this negative campaign initiated by Ryanair, Bravofly has mandated its lawyers to protect the good name and the correct operation of Bravofly from Ryanair’s libelous and offending declarations, in all Bravofly offices as necessary.


    PRESS OFFICE BRAVOFLY
    Contact: Rosangela Leone
    E-mail: rosangela.leone@bravofly.com

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