EBay Inc. is accusing rival Amazon.com Inc. of poaching sellers on its site worldwide by infiltrating its internal message system.
About 10 days ago, an EBay seller alerted the company to the alleged campaign after an Amazon employee contacted that seller under false pretenses and tried to recruit the seller to switch platforms, according to a person familiar with the investigation. This sparked an internal EBay investigation that uncovered recruiting activity spanning several years and continents, with Amazon employees creating EBay accounts and using the member-to-member email system, the person said, asking not to be named discussing details that weren’t public.
On Monday, EBay sent a cease-and-desist letter to Amazon accusing the retail giant of violating California’s Comprehensive Computer Data Access and Fraud Act, as well as EBay’s user agreement and policies.
“We have uncovered an unlawful and troubling scheme on the part of Amazon to solicit EBay sellers to move to Amazon’s platform,” an EBay spokesman said in a statement. “We have demanded that Amazon end its unlawful activity and we will take the appropriate steps, as needed, to protect EBay.”
The Wall Street Journal reported earlier on the probe. Amazon said it is “conducting a thorough investigation of these allegations.”
The news of the alleged poaching comes less than a month after reports that Amazon employees are offering sellers confidential internal data and other services in exchange for a fee.
EBay and Amazon are fierce competitors that rely on independent merchants that sell on their sites.
Amazon has more customers, more sales and faster growth than EBay, but some sellers prefer the EBay platform since it is a pure marketplace, meaning EBay doesn’t compete with its merchants for sales as Amazon does.
EBay also lets merchants communicate directly with customers and post email addresses and phone numbers on the site, while Amazon controls the overall shopping experience on its site and discourages merchants from communicating directly with Amazon shoppers.
Carville writes for Bloomberg.