Travelocity India, an online travel portal, has claimed $37.5 million (Rs 168 crore) damages from its rival, Cleartrip, for losses as a result of alleged data theft.
“Online travel agencies Desiya and Travelguru, owned by Travelocity, have filed a civil suit against Cleartrip, its senior executives and directors, including the chief executive officer, in a Mumbai court for data theft following the filing of criminal charge sheet by the Gurgaon police related to the same case,” said Travelocity.
“This is a rare civil case where a criminal and forensic investigation has revealed clear evidence of data theft and wrongdoing,” said the Regional Vice-President of Travelocity, Asia Pacific, Roshan Mendis.
Travelocity bought Travelguru, another travel portal, in August 2009. Travelguru owned Desiya Online Distribution, another travel portal.
After the acquisition, Travelocity India accused Cleartrip Chief Executive Stuart Crighton of conniving with senior officials of Desiya Online Distribution to commit data theft, which it said led to a loss of business.
Cleartrip termed the charge as baseless saying it arose out of the fact that three of its rival’s executives joined it after the acquisition. A Cleartrip spokesperson said senior executives of the company had been facing continuous harassment due to what Cleartrip believed was a baseless complaint.
“We believe this civil suit is vindictive and the figures quoted are groundless and something we deny strongly. We can only assume that this has been added for additional sensationalism, as the case seems to be losing steam. Cleartrip has cooperated with the investigating authorities and will continue to do so,” he said.
In its FIR, Travelocity said former employees of Desiya Online Distribution — MD Amit Taneja, Regional Manager (North) Sanjeet Singh and travel consultant Imran Ansari —passed on data to Cleartrip. This is breach of the Information Technology Act, 2000.
Travelocity alleged that Taneja shared the “entire hotel business model, projections and other proprietary information with Stuart (Cleartrip CEO)”. The FIR has a list of alleged email communications between Taneja and Stuart Crighton.
The Gurgaon police filed a charge sheet on December 20, 2010, accusing the officials named in the FIR, including Crighton, of data theft.
Travelocity is present in 40 countries, with web sites in 12 languages. It provided $10.1 billion (over Rs 47,000 crore) worth of travel services in 2006.
Cleartrip.com is one of the top three online travel agencies in India with a 35 per cent market share.