eBay Accuses Amazon of Trying to Steal Sellers
This week, Amazon received a cease-and-desist letter from eBay. It accuses the company of breaking California's Comprehensive Computer Data Access and Fraud Act by using eBay's messaging system to try and poach sellers.
"We have uncovered an unlawful and troubling scheme on the part of Amazon to solicit eBay sellers to move to Amazon's platform," eBay explained to The Wall Street Journal. "We have demanded that Amazon end its unlawful activity and we will take the appropriate steps, as needed, to protect eBay."
According to the report, more than 50 Amazon sales representatives had sent over 1,000 messages to eBay sellers in an attempt to move them over to Amazon's Marketplace (which is where Amazon facilitates user-to-user selling, in contrast to its retail site). EBay's user agreement states that its messaging platform cannot be used for promoting sales outside of eBay.
EBay says it was alerted to the scheme approximately 11 days ago, according to Cnet. EBay claims that the evidence it has goes back years, with Amazon employees intentionally hiding their email addresses and the name of their company. Such details could have alerted eBay's monitoring system to the activity.
According to CNBC, this was done by spelling out email addresses, suggesting offline contact and adding extra characters to obscure the word "Amazon." Adding extra characters into words is a common tactic which plagues automated systems designed to read messages.
Amazon has said that it is investigating the claims, which The Telegraph reports are mainly focused on operations in China. However, some employees in the U.S. were apparently involved in the allegations last month.
The battle between eBay and Amazon is a fierce one. For the former, it has morphed from a community-driven website to an important platform for many larger businesses. The latter, meanwhile, is bent on dominance in the shopping space and its Marketplace branch can charge sellers for shipping, marketing and other aspects of selling products.
Moreover, with Amazon releasing more smart-home products to get customers further invested in its ecosystem, the sheer ubiquity of the company poses a concern for eBay. This is compounded by its integration of businesses such as Whole Foods, which it bought in 2017 for $13.7 billion, into its Prime perks.