EBay has accused Amazon employees of using its messaging system to illegally poach its sellers.
The online auction platform sent a cease-and-desist letter to Amazon on Monday accusing it of breaking California’s Comprehensive Computer Data Access and Fraud Act, as well as its own 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,” a 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 letter followed an investigation that found 50 Amazon employees across the world had sent more than 1,000 messages to sellers, asking them to move their business over.
EBay launched the probe after it was alerted by a seller to the messages around 10 days ago. Under eBay’s user agreement, the messaging platform cannot be used for promoting sales outside the platform.
EBay said it would be taking the appropriate steps to protect its marketplace and Amazon claimed it was investigating the allegations, which were first reported by the Wall Street Journal.
Both eBay and Amazon have been battling for years to ensure they keep attracting sellers and merchants on to their sites. While many merchants use both for their sales, some choose just one of the sites.
This could be for a variety of reasons, although market commentators have said a key one is that Amazon, unlike eBay, sells its own products, prompting concerns it may copy merchants’ products.
On the other hand, investors have in the past warned that eBay is struggling to remain relevant given the size and resources of Amazon, which means it can easily offer speedier delivery.
Amazon has grown to become the world’s second-biggest company with a market value of over $960bn, granting it enormous financial muscle. It has been aggressive in its efforts to reach into new markets by disrupting incumbent operators.
According to data released last September by the companies, when they appeared before the Public Accounts Committee, Amazon has around 280,000 registered sellers trading on its site, while eBay has around 200,000.
The accusations of poaching come just weeks after reports that Amazon employees were offering sellers confidential internal data and other services including the deletion of negative reviews in exchange for a fee.
Amazon has said it is investigating the claims, which are thought to revolve mainly around its operations in China. Some employees in the US were also involved in the allegations last month.