Ecommerce Law News: eBay Accuses Amazon of Poaching Sellers

October 18, 2018

EBay and Amazon are brawling. Word on the curb is that eBay thinks Amazon is trying to poach sellers from its platform. If the suspicions prove true, Amazon may land in some legal trouble.

The Alleged Incident: “Hey Seller! Come On Over To Amazon!”

One day, in the not so distant past, an eBay seller logged into their account and was welcomed with a private message. The communiqué, however, wasn’t from a potential buyer. Instead, it came from someone offering an invitation to “sell on Amazon.” Being a loyal merchant, the message recipient alerted eBay. A quick investigation revealed about one thousand similar “recruiting” emails in eBay sellers’ on-platform inboxes.

Is It Against The Law To Recruit Sellers From Another E-commerce Platform?

Some of you may be thinking: “So what if Amazon approached eBay sellers about selling on its platform!” And for the most part, you’re right.

But here’s the rub: whoever sent the Amazon recruiting messages used eBay’s internal messaging system, and the website’s terms of service forbids the use of its platform “to encourage or conduct” non-eBay transactions.

But Wait! Is Amazon Really Behind The E-commerce Recruitment Campaign?

According to reports, the sender knew that eBay flagged messages that included specific keywords, including “Amazon.”

Purportedly  to evade message scanners, the senders used the stylized versions — like A.M.Z.N. and a-m-a-z-o-n.

But the question remains: Is Amazon really the force behind the messages?

Think about it: Amazon is the largest online retailer in the United States. It’s a corporation with millions of third-party sellers. The likelihood of them dedicating resources to poach eBay sellers — using shady SPAM-adjacent messages — feels a little far-fetched. After all, just because someone is advocating for Amazon doesn’t mean Amazon authorized it. Moreover, reports indicate that the messages are coming from “all over the world.” Given the known facts, it’s just as likely that someone has set up some sort of e-commerce scam that involves Amazon, unbeknownst to Amazon.

EBay, however, sees things from a completely different angle. In a statement, a spokesperson lamented: “We can confirm that we have uncovered an unlawful and troubling scheme on the part of Amazon to solicit eBay sellers to move to Amazon’s platform. We have demanded that Amazon end its unlawful activity and will take the appropriate steps, as needed, to protect eBay.”

For its part, Amazon says it’s “conducting a thorough investigation of these allegations.”

Potential Legal Ramifications of Poaching Sellers

If the future reveals that Amazon used underhanded tactics in an attempt to lure sellers, could eBay successfully sue Jeff Bezos’ e-commerce behemoth? Potentially. Right now, eBay is accusing Amazon of violating its terms of service and the California Comprehensive Computer Data Access and Fraud Act, which forbids the misuse of private digital networks. If this case does go the mile, it will be interesting to see if a judge agrees with the claim.

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