eBay has accused Amazon of using “illegal” tactics to poach sellers using eBay’s very own database against them, puzzling analysts who claim the juvenile feud will have little impact on where consumers choose to shop.
eBay alleges that Amazon “infiltrated” and “exploited” its member messaging system in an attempt to recruit high-value, third-party sellers to Amazon as part of an “orchestrated worldwide campaign”.
The Australian arm of Amazon is implicated, as well as the company’s US, United Kingdom, France, Spain, Italy and Singapore platforms, according to eBay’s cease-and-desist letter.
eBay warned Amazon to immediately terminate the scheme and is seeking remedies for the “irreparable harm” caused.
The legal document claimed that Amazon representatives slyly sent messages to eBay sellers and admitted their intention to avoid detection.
“For my own security purposes, I would rather not do that over eBay,” one message stated.
eBay does scan for key terms and they don’t exactly like us poking around.
“You can write me at jdoe at amazon dot com.”
It also used variations of Amazon’s name such as “a-m-a-z-o-n” and “a.m.z.n” to avoid being caught.
Amazon vs eBay in e-commerce wars
The bizarre scheme has baffled e-commerce analysts closely watching Amazon’s growth in the Australian market.
Juozas Kaziukenas, an e-commerce analyst and founder of Marketplace Pulse, said the 1000 messages in question was a “tiny” amount given the size of these global marketplaces.
“At best that would have gotten Amazon 10, 20 … 50 new sellers?” he told The New Daily.
“Amazon worldwide gets two new sellers to join every minute. Amazon Australia has roughly 500 sellers join every week.
“By our count, there are more than two million eBay sellers from both Australia and worldwide that have made their products available to Australian customers on eBay.com.au.
“By comparison, Amazon Australia is just about to pass 23,000 sellers.”
eBay Australia attracted 72.7 million visitors to its website in September, compared to 12.4 million at Amazon Australia, according to SimilarWeb traffic data.
So if Amazon poses no imminent threat, why all the fuss?
Amazon Australia got off to a slow start with complaints of technical glitches leaving sellers in limbo.
But it soon after restored its reputation by claiming the title of the fastest-growing Amazon marketplace.
eBay showed its first indication of feeling threatened by the local market newcomer in May when it barred its sellers from using Amazon fulfilment centres to stock products sold by eBay – an unprecedented tactic.
Amazon’s fulfilment model – absent from eBay’s offering – is a huge, long-term advantage to Amazon.
This has led commentators to tip Amazon’s subscription service, Amazon Prime, as the leading favourite ahead of eBay Plus.
‘Only a few marketplaces will survive in Australia’
Mr Kaziukenas said he was surprised by the allegations against Amazon.
“Recruiting sellers actively hasn’t been part of Amazon’s strategy for over a decade in most markets,” he said.
“Thanks to their dominance, sellers flock to them anyway.
“In the US, eBay’s complaint frankly looks silly. In Australia it maybe makes more sense since the roles are reversed – eBay is in the lead.”
E-commerce expert Scott Kilmartin said that in small markets, such as Australia, there are only so many local merchants to go around.
“Offering inducements to steal customers happens in every industry,” he said.
“From a consumer standpoint, most customers will be oblivious to these Machiavellian manoeuvrings so it will have no effect on platform or brand perceptions.”
“This isn’t a primary school sports carnival, not everyone gets a ribbon.
“Only a few marketplaces will survive in Australia and eBay is the dominant player and has been for years in Australia.”
Digital economy expert Dr Paula Dootson said the legal action could be the first step on eBay’s journey to regulate its way out of disruption.
“Taxis did it in response to Uber … hotels did it in response to Airbnb,” she said.
“Rather than the incumbent finding novel ways to compete, they try to bury the disruptor in legal proceedings.”
Amazon did not respond to The New Daily‘s request for comment.