Online retail powerhouse eBay has sued Amazon, alleging that the tech giant illegally lured sellers away from its site.
In the lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Santa Clara County Superior Court in California, eBay claims “dozens” of Amazon sales reps around the world set up eBay accounts specifically to contact and recruit “high-value” eBay sellers to Amazon. The suit alleges these practices violated a California computer crime law and its own user agreement.
The lawsuit comes two weeks after eBay reportedly sent a cease-and-desist letter to the tech giant, demanding Amazon knock off its alleged seller poaching efforts. The situation came to light “a few weeks ago” when an eBay seller came forward to report alleged poaching efforts by Amazon.
“Over the past several years, Amazon has perpetrated a scheme to infiltrate and exploit eBay’s internal member email system,” according to the suit. “Amazon did this to recruit high-value eBay sellers to Amazon. The breadth and scope of Amazon’s conduct is startling. Since 2015, dozens of Amazon sales representatives in the U.S. and overseas set up eBay member accounts to access eBay’s ‘M2M’ email system and used that system to solicit many hundreds of eBay sellers to sell on Amazon’s platform.”
Amazon declined to comment on the suit. When eBay’s cease-and-desist letter came to light, Amazon said in a statement “we are conducting a thorough investigation of these allegations.”
The lawsuit alleges Amazon did not comply with the cease-and-desist letter and did not provide additional information requested by eBay.
“eBay brings this action because Amazon — unwilling to fairly compete for third party seller business — instead has resorted to an orchestrated, coordinated, worldwide campaign, using eBay’s proprietary M2M system, to illegally lure eBay sellers to sell on Amazon. eBay seeks to stop Amazon’s unlawful scheme and to obtain redress for the damage it has caused.”
Amazon and eBay have competed for years in the online shopping industry. Though the tech giants differ slightly — Amazon also directly sells products, while eBay does not — they both run huge marketplace businesses that rely on third-party sellers.
eBay CEO Devin Wieng spoke at the 2018 GeekWire Summit earlier this month, where he said the e-commerce world is big enough for a number of players, including both Amazon and eBay. He doesn’t view Amazon as a direct competitor, and wants eBay to continue to develop its own identity.
“I don’t want to compete with Amazon; I want to get as far away from Amazon as I can,” Wenig said. “I want us to stand for something fundamentally different. I want eBay to be a winner in discovery-based shopping. I want it to be a place where people think of first for the things they love, not just the things they need.”
The suit lays out how Amazon allegedly contacted sellers, breaking up phone numbers with periods and spelling out full email addresses. They did this, eBay alleges, because Amazon representatives knew they were violating eBay rules and sought to avoid detection.
“Rather than follow the rules, the representatives employed various techniques to circumvent detection by eBay. They changed the presentation of Amazon email addresses, for example: ‘You can write me at jdoe AT amazon DOT com;’ ‘DoeJohn at Amazon dot com,’ and ‘JDoe at amazon dot com.’ They also provided unconventional phone number formats, again, solely for the purpose of evading detection — telling eBay sellers, for example, that ‘you can write down 2.0.6. — 5.5.5. — 22.214.171.124. and then delete this message if you so choose.”