The whole model of loyalty programs is how do we make them so hard to use that we can pretend we are giving people something when, in fact, we are not really.
Enter the airlines.
They give out frequent flyer miles for all kinds of things from actual airline tickets to anything that you buy with their credit card.
But they would prefer that you not cash those miles in because that costs them money.
Enter The Points Guy, LLC. (TPC) Their goal is to make it much easier to track and use your miles and to coordinate what is the most profitable way for YOU (and not the airlines) to use those miles.
TPG aggregates and collects information from the most prominent rewards programs and provides a series of rankings and recommendations designed to help maximize your rewards points. It also provides various services for tracking and managing your rewards points.
Which makes the airlines unhappy. American sent a cease and desist letter to TPG to tell them to stop scraping their web site. The problem that they have is that TPG is not actually scraping the airline’s website, they are providing software that lets American’s actual customer (which is also TPG’s customer) collect their own data and share it with TPG.
There are a lot of back and forth lawsuits and claims going on and it will be a while before we get any resolution, but it is not clear to me how someone like American can tell their own customers that they cannot use their own data. That has to be a PR nightmare and smart lawyers will make sure that everyone knows.
Still this will be an interesting fight and a lot of people will be interested in how this turns out.
Specifically, if TPG is successful, it will create a strategy for others to follow.
Credit: Professor Eric Goldman