10 August 2008

Ryanair clams down on Screen Scrapers - Agents too?

Ryanair is one of those airlines that seems to have found a successful business model and absent the current disastrous decisions on Fuel Hedging, they are likely to be one of the big survivors. One of their strengths has to be the way in which they have rigidly enforced the Low Cost model.

So it is not surprising that occasionally they go after intermediaries who are re-selling the Ryanair product. Currently there is an interesting spat over screen scrapers. The story is that Ryanair has stated effective Monday they will automatically cancel any bookings made by screed scrapers. This act has the improbably situation with condemnation coming from several sides including of all people ABTA - the Association of British Travel Agents. Holiday Which (the UK consumer magazine which acts as a consumer advocacy group) I can understand but ABTA????

Before you readers scream and shout that Michael O'Leary is at it again (well he is but read on...) and that he deserves this condemnation, think a little more carefully.

There are 3 main types of screen scraping. This BTW has been going on since the Trip.com first scammed Expedia, Preview and Travelocity in the early days of OTAs.

Type 1 - screen scrape aggregate and then forward the user to the supplier or real seller's site. Examples are usually with permission of the supplier site and include Kayak, Farechase, Yapta, Skyscanner et al.

Type 2 - screen scrape aggregate and then make the booking in the background without redirecting the consumer sometimes without the consumer knowing this is taking place. Examples of this are V-Tours in Germany and Bravofly and Irish company based in Switzerland.

Type 3 - screen scrape for fare comparison purposes without using the data in the consumer flow at all. Almost all sites use some tool to compare and contrast the prices offered by others. It keeps the game interesting and prevents wild swings.

Type 2 is the nasty one because it is essentially fooling the customer. It is also EXPRESSLY verboten with Ryanair and just about everyone else. Ryanair's T&Cs section 3 - here is an extract:

"Permitted use. You are not permitted to use this website other than for the following, private, non-commercial purposes: (i) viewing this website; (ii) making bookings; (iii) reviewing/changing bookings; (iv) checking arrival/departure information; (v) performing online check-in; (vi) transferring to other websites through links provided on this website; and (vii) making use of other facilities that may be provided on the website. Use of this website for any purpose other than the aforementioned private, non-commercial purposes is prohibited. In particular, use of any automated system or software to extract data from this website for display on any other website (“screen scraping”) is prohibited. In addition, the website may not be used without Ryanair’s prior written consent for providing on a commercial basis details of Ryanair flights to others, offering Ryanair’s services for sale to others, purchasing of Ryanair’s services for resale to others, or the like,."

Easyjet is a little nicer but the essence is the same:

"easyJet.com acceptable use policy
easyJet permits you to use this website strictly for personal, non-commercial purposes only. Use of the website for any other purpose is prohibited. If you do not agree with the terms of this Acceptable Use Policy (“Policy”) then you may not use this website."

I have an issue with the use of Screen Scraping and have never been a huge fan despite the value that can be derived. The core root of the problem is that the backend systems are really not designed to cope with these types of searches and therefore it creates a resource issue which ultimately costs money. Is it fair therefore for a scraper to make money out of someone else's resources?

BA's website is a little more specific on this topic.

"Acceptable use
You may only use this website in accordance with these Terms and Conditions and, in any event, for lawful and proper purposes which includes complying with all applicable laws, regulations and codes of practice within the UK or other jurisdiction from which you are accessing this website.

In particular, you agree that you will not:

post, transmit or disseminate any information on or via this website which is or may be harmful, obscene, defamatory or otherwise illegal;
use this website in a manner which causes or may cause an infringement of the rights of any other;
make any unauthorised, false or fraudulent booking;
use any software, routine or device to interfere or attempt to interfere electronically or manually with the operation or functionality of this website including but not limited to uploading or making available files containing corrupt data or viruses via whatever means;
deface, alter or interfere with the front end ‘look and feel’ of this website or the underlying software code;
take any action that imposes an unreasonable or disproportionately large load on this website or related infrastructure; "

In my humble opinion therefore Ryanair is well within its rights to take this action even though it is objectionable and puts the consumer in the hot seat.

As with everything else - lest we forget - caveat emptor and RTFP - Read the Fine Print!!!



No comments: