EBay Accuses Amazon Managers of Conspiring to Poach Its Sellers

The poaching dispute started last fall when eBay sent Amazon a cease-and-desist letter, saying a seller told it that an Amazon representative had tried to recruit the seller over the internal messaging system. EBay then sued Amazon in California Superior Court.

Amazon initially said it was investigating the claim. In court, Amazon petitioned to move the case to arbitration, where eBay’s user agreement requires disputes be adjudicated. In April, a judge granted that request, finding eBay’s arbitration clause to have a “broad” scope that covers the claims. The case remains in arbitration.

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In the new complaint, eBay says, “representatives were given quotas for recruiting sellers, and were expected to satisfy large chunks of those quotas by targeting and illegally recruiting eBay sellers.” It also says different Amazon representatives “sometimes sent literally identical pitch emails,” indicating coordination.

The filing does not lay out evidence for how eBay came to believe that the attempts to poach sellers and evade detection were orchestrated by the three specific managers named in the suit. David Grable, eBay’s lawyer at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, said the new complaint was based on information provided by a whistle-blower of sorts who had contacted the company.

While the training may not have been explicit, the outreach to sellers was, the suit says. EBay cites multiple fake accounts that gained access to its site via an internet address registered to Amazon in Seattle. It includes messages from 2016 to 2018 recruiting sellers that offered a range of items, including shoes, refurbished computers and tools.

According to the suit, one Amazon employee sent an eBay seller a message saying, “I am part of what you would call a hunter/recruiter team which actively searches for sellers we believe can do well on the platform.” That same account and others made clear that the users were aware eBay scanned emails for such activity.

“I am not sure if eBay will allow this to go through, but I will try,” the representative wrote, before adding a phone number and an email address at “Amazon dot com.”

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