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eBay is suing three Amazon managers for allegedly poaching its sellers

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Online retailer eBay has sued three Amazon managers for allegedly infiltrating eBay’s platform to poach sellers. The lawsuit, filed earlier this week in California, claims Amazon employees signed up for eBay under false names and pretenses. Then, they would allegedly send private messages inviting sellers to Amazon, actively circumventing eBay’s rules and filters.

eBay has accused Amazon of poaching before. It sent a cease and desist letter last October, alleging that 50 Amazon sales representatives sent over 1,000 messages to eBay sellers. Amazon promised a “thorough investigation,” but eBay proceeded with a lawsuit that was later sent to arbitration. This new suit focuses on a few higher-up figures that eBay accuses of racketeering and fraud over their allegedly coordinated behavior.

eBay says Amazon managers incentivized sales representatives to engage in racketeering by giving them recruitment quotes and expecting them to “satisfy large chunks of those quotas by targeting and illegally recruiting eBay sellers.” These are serious charges, but basing a case on Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) charges is a generally risky legal strategy. The company is seeking monetary damages as well as an injunction that would bar Amazon employees from soliciting sellers on eBay.

The eBay lawsuit comes as the Federal Trade Commission is separately examining anti-competitive business practices on Amazon. The FTC is scrutinizing a deal between Amazon and Apple, in which Apple began selling directly through Amazon and Amazon abruptly exiled competing third-party Apple product sellers