EBay (EBAY) has claimed that online retail giant Amazon (AMZN) deployed an illegal scheme to recruit eBay’s “high-value” sellers to Amazon, in a California lawsuit which was filed on Wednesday in a Silicon Valley court.
The lawsuit alleges that Amazon representatives made fraudulent contact with eBay sellers, in the United States and overseas, through eBay’s proprietary member to member messaging system, the M2M.
According to the complaint, eBay has claimed that Amazon representatives set up eBay member accounts with the intent to circumvent eBay’s message monitoring systems, using some unconventional formats for email addresses as well as phone numbers.
The complaint says that Amazon representatives changed the presentation of Amazon email addresses, for example…jdoe AT amazon DOT com. Apart from this they also provided unconventional phone number formats exclusively 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 choose to.
EBay also claimed that some of the Amazon representatives who made contact with eBay sellers referred to themselves as hunter or recruiters.
The messaging system allows eBay’s sellers and buyers to communicate electronically, though the company’s User Agreement policy does not allow the parties from using the system to offer, reference, or even request contact information. It also prohibits buyers and sellers from contact concerning buying or selling outside of the eBay platform.
eBay says that offers to buy or sell outside of its platform, present a risk of fraud, and can signal an attempt to avoid eBay fees.
Amazon’s user policies are also similar, and require those who establish Amazon accounts to follow the rules laid down by the company.
Its policy states that any attempt to circumvent the established Amazon sales process or to divert Amazon users to another website or sales process is strictly prohibited.
In its five-count complaint EBay alleges that Amazon intentionally interfered with eBay’s economic and contractual relations, perpetuated fraudulent activity on the company, and also violated California’s Penal Code and Business and Professions Code. The company said that two weeks before filing the lawsuit it sent a cease and desist letter to Amazon.
The company is asking for a jury trial and has also made a demand of stopping the allegedly fraudulent activity, along with monetary as well as punitive damages.
Amazon has declined to comment on the story. The company must come up with a valid explanation on this.