eBay Inc. (NASDAQ: EBAY) is accusing Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) of “unlawful and troubling” poaching of merchants on the platform, the Company said on Wednesday.
eBay sent a cease-and-desist letter to Amazon on Monday to stop the alleged recruiting practice after determining roughly 50 Amazon sales representatives worldwide sent more than 1,000 messages to sellers on its platform. eBay says it found hundreds of messages in which Amazon employees sought to skirt the Company’s content monitoring — spelling out email addresses, adding extra characters to disguise the word “Amazon,” and suggesting offline contact, for example.
“We have uncovered an unlawful and troubling scheme on the part of Amazon to solicit eBay sellers to move to Amazon’s platform,” eBay 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.”
A spokesperson for Amazon said that the Company is “conducting a thorough investigation of these allegations.” The contact, eBay alleges, violates the California Comprehensive Computer Data Access and Fraud Act.
eBay and Amazon have been locked in competition for years, in part because both companies heavily rely on independent merchants who sell items on their sites. eBay is a pure marketplace and doesn’t sell its own merchandise, while Amazon’s units sold are split down the middle between its own retail arm and its merchants.
Amazon, in recent years, has relied more heavily on its independent marketplace to grow sales because those transactions are usually more profitable. Amazon typically takes a cut of roughly 15% of each sale, plus collects advertising, warehousing and other fees from the merchants.
While Amazon has taken a dominant position in online retail, commanding nearly half of all U.S. sales, eBay has worked in recent years to modernize and shed its reputation as an online garage sale. It has recently added to its sales and customer base in part due to new, aggressive marketing campaigns and commitments that allow it to better compete with Amazon, like free, fast shipping.