Some price comparison websites and other online travel agents face being forced to alter their business models if action is taken to outlaw unauthorised “screen scraping” of data.
A Ryanair legal case against screen scrapers which re-sell its flights on their own websites is to be heard in Ireland following a Supreme Court ruling in Dublin yesterday.
The low fares airline is challenging the rights of companies such as eDreams, Billigfluege, On the Beach and Ticketpoint to sell its flights without transferring customers to its website.
Billigfluege, On the Beach and Ticketpoint were seeking to overturn a High Court ruling that the Irish courts had the jurisdiction to hear the case but the Supreme Court dismissed this.
The airline is likely to now seek injunctions in the Irish courts against such companies to prevent what it claims is their unlawful use of its website.
Ryanair has had a long-running battle against screen scrapers which it claims mislead consumers with artificially low on-screen flight prices which bear no relation to the total amount they end up paying.
The carrier originally issued proceedings to ask the court to prevent Billigfluege and Ticketpoint from using its website in 2009 and began a similar action against On the Beach the following year.
Billigfluege and Ticketpoint challenged the Irish courts’ jurisdiction to hear the case. The High Court in Dublin ruled in favour of Ryanair in early 2010.
Ryanair chief marketing officer, Kenny Jacobs, said: “The ruling will have no impact on the authorised websites we work with today, over a dozen, who are supplied with Ryanair’s product inventory, so as to allow customers to compare air fares.
“However, many screen scraper sites continue to artificially inflate Ryanair’s fares and give a bad experience to customers, particularly those that want to change an element of their booking.
“We are calling on the EU to intervene and prohibit these practices in the interest of consumers.”
Ryanair says it has identified more cases of these websites offering low-fare flights only for these to end up costing substantially more than the actual fares on Ryanair.com with a Dublin-Stansted fare in January of €19.99 being sold for €44.69.