TPG, American Airlines Suing Each Other in Data Syncing Dispute
When most consumers think about FinTech, one of the first examples that often comes to mind are aggregation apps. With apps such as Mint, Personal Capital, and many more, users can gather all of their financial account data in one place, making it easier for them to manage their money. However, the institutions on the other side haven’t always been such big fans of this practice. In fact, a new battle is brewing between a well-known travel site and a major domestic airline revolving around the practice of data syncing.
In a press release, The Points Guy revealed that American Airlines had sent a cease and desist, demanding that the site halt syncing AAdvantage miles data in its app. Launched in September of last year, The Points Guy App allows users to connect and view their current credit card and loyalty point program balances, see an estimated value of those points, and explore potential redemptions. According to the company, users are currently tracking a combined total of more than 18 billion points and miles using the application.
Commenting on the app’s overall goal, The Points Guy founder Brian Kelly said in a statement, “We launched The Points Guy App for free last year in September with the goal of allowing travelers to track all of their loyalty programs in one spot. We believe that this gives consumers the power to see how much value they actually have in loyalty points and frequent flyer miles so that they can travel the world.”
He went on to discuss the current dispute, noting, “We are choosing to fight back against American Airlines on behalf of travelers to protect their rights to access their points and miles so they can travel smarter. We’ll continue to advocate because we believe the consumer has the right to choose whether you share your loyalty balances with a third party app that will make your life easier.”
American Airlines spokesperson Andrea Koos responded in a statement to Bloomberg, stating that TPG’s was utilizing data “in a way that does not comply with our standards of use of confidential information,” adding, “We take customer data and proprietary information incredibly seriously, and want to make sure it is protected and secure.”
The fight between The Points Guy and American Airlines is somewhat reminiscent of issues faced by FinTech apps, such as Mint in their early days. As the account aggregator gained popularity, some institutions began blocking the application’s access to account data. Eventually, Mint made deals with select banks to resolve these disputes. More recently, APIs such as Plaid have made account data sharing more ubiquitous and accessible.
While The Points Guy may not be considered a FinTech firm by most, their current dispute with American Airlines highlights one of the issues that app developers in the financial space have previously faced. At the core of the issue, institutions do not want to be held responsible if a customer’s data were to leak from a third-party’s platform. However, consumers may be more likely to side with FinTech providers — until something goes wrong. Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer to which side should win out, which is why this ongoing battle will be interesting to watch.