Travel agent fails to prevent Ryanair ‘screen-scraping’ suit
Airline suing Romanian firm SC Vola.Ro over alleged breaches of contract and copyright
Ryanair claims Vola committed the alleged wrongs by using information obtained or ‘scraped’ from the Ryanair website.
An online travel agent in Romania has lost a pre-trial bid to prevent Ryanair suing it in the courts here over alleged “screen-scraping” of information from the Irish airline’s website.
Ryanair has sued SC Vola. Ro SRL on grounds including alleged breaches of contract and of copyright and database rights.
It claims Vola committed the alleged wrongs by using information obtained or “scraped” from the Ryanair website in real time regarding flight times and prices and subsequently selling and booking Ryanair flights at an inflated price by interposing its website between passengers of Ryanair and the airline’s own website.
In an affidavit for the pre-trial application, a Ryanair Labs Ltd project manager claimed a flight from Dublin to Edinburgh was booked via Vola’s website for €53, including a service fee of €15 and additional charge of 98 cent.
Booking the flight via the Ryanair website cost €37.02, it was alleged.
In its defence to the case, Vola denies it engaged in screen scraping of the Ryanair website.
Vola claimed it relied on information provided by Ryanair to various third parties in the online marketplace through application programming interface (API) processes separate from Ryanair’s public website, that Vola has its own API arrangements with those third parties on which it relies and, as a result, Vola does not access Ryanair’s public website at any time.
Ryanair disputed that explanation and insisted the Vola website was using the Ryanair website and was engaged in screen-scraping through the use of a “bot” or “spider”.
Lawyers for Vola had brought a pre-trial motion contesting the jurisdiction of the Irish courts to hear and decide the case.
Vola claimed its country of domicile, Romania, is the proper place to hear the action.
Ms Justice Una Ní Raifeartaigh, in a judgment delivered on Monday, dismissed the pre-trial application based on findings including, because the Ryanair website is hosted on servers here, the location of the alleged breach is Ireland.
Her detailed judgment addressed a range of issues under the relevant European Union regulation 1215/2012 dealing with jurisdictional issues along with technical matters relating to the Ryanair and Vola websites.
The judge stressed she had made a number of limited findings of fact necessary to decide the jurisdictional point and had not entered on the substantive issues in the case.
Among her findings were that, on the balance of probabilities, Vola does not typically make bookings through third parties and that a Vola customer would typically book through the Vola website.
She also found that Vola’s account of a booking through a global distribution systems operator was “seriously lacking in detail” and said Vola had not produced any copies of any agreements with third parties.
She rejected Vola’s primary submission that it did not access Ryanair’s website.
Given those and other findings, she refused the application on jurisdiction with the effect the case can proceed here.