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Screen scraping is no anti-competitive discrimination

The automated searching of data, that are available on websites, is permitted under the rules of competition. The Federal Supreme Court (reference number: I ZR 224/12) decided that online booking portals can use price information of suppliers as long as no specific technical measures are repealed.

A low cost airline that is specialised in direct sales has brought action against an online travel agency. The travel service provider evaluates the data of several airlines and offers the service including intermediary fees. The defendant, through his portal can retrieve external data without the airlines' approval; this is the so called screen scraping. In balancing the various interests in this case, competitors and consumers, the Federal Supreme Court comes to the conclusion that the applicant, the low cost airline, although the defendant uses screen scarping, will not be prevented from offering its services in the market. The mere fact that the defendant overrules the airline is not a case of anti-competitive obstruction at least as long as no technical rules are bypassed.

The judges in Karlsruhe have examined only the anti-competitive obstruction in accordance with article § 4 number 10 UWG. Now the Regional Supreme Court Hamburg must decide if there are other relevant aspects to consider. Providers that want to protect themselves against the use of screen scraping, can do that by simply introducing technical locks.