American multinational e-commerce corporation eBay has officially filed a lawsuit in Santa Clara County, California against its largest online competitor. Within the company’s five part complaint, they claim that Amazon misused its platform by using eBay’s very own messaging feature in order to hire away third party sellers — both in the United States and abroad — reported The Wall Street Journal.
The complaint states that this alleged poaching of high-value sellers is in direct violation of California’s Penal Code and Business and Professionals Code. The company is seeking to stop what they believe is fraudulent activity as well as to receive monetary relief for punitive damages. Statements inside the complaint accuse Amazon of engaging in what eBay is calling a “systematic” and “coordinated effort to infiltrate.” Also according to eBay’s lawsuit, this alleged scheme involved a large number of representatives who referred to themselves as “hunters/recruiters,” cites Yahoo Finance.
“For years, and unbeknownst to eBay, Amazon has been engaged in a systematic, coordinated effort to infiltrate and exploit eBay’s proprietary M2M system on eBay’s platform to lure top eBay sellers to Amazon. The scheme is startling in breadth — involving large numbers of Amazon representatives targeting many hundreds of eBay sellers, and spanning several countries overseas and many states in the United States (including California).”
The messaging system that these Amazon employees are accused of using is called a member-to-member messaging system, or M2M for short. It serves as a way for sellers and buyers to communicate electronically. The Terms of Service document that users agree to before using eBay, however, clearly states that users are prohibited from any form of offer, reference, contact information requests, or suggesting any sort of buying or selling outside of the eBay platform; this is a policy that the company claims is put into place as an effort to prevent fraudulent activity of any kind, including attempts to skirt eBay’s seller fees. Amazon has similar regulations within its own company policy.
According to eBay’s complaint, Amazon was allegedly sending as many as 120 messages from single eBay accounts without buying or selling any items on the eBay. The complaint also states that Amazon representatives implied that potential recruits should delete what was being shared.
“[Amazon representatives] changed the presentation of Amazon email addresses, for example … “jdoe AT amazon DOT com.” They also provided unconventional phone number formats solely for the purpose of evading detection — telling eBay sellers, for example, “you can write down 2.0.6. — 5.5.5. — 18.104.22.168. and then delete this message if you so choose.”
Amazon has declined to comment on these allegations.