eBay competes with Facebook Marketplace, but it doesn't compete with Facebook's social networking offerings, it told a US court in a motion on Monday. The filing served as a reminder of how much eBay has changed and how other companies have challenged the online marketplace.
eBay got swept up in the FTC's case against Facebook (Meta) as the latter issued subpoenas to rivals seeking information to fight the FTC's antitrust claims. "The FTC sued Meta in D.C. federal court in 2020, accusing the company of abusing its power in the "personal social networking services" market," according to US News and World Report
eBay filed Monday's motion to quash Facebook's deposition subpoenas, telling the court it had already worked with Facebook parent Meta for a year and handed over thousands of documents to comply with its document subpoenas.
"eBay is an online platform that brings buyers and sellers together to buy and sell goods, either through auctions or traditional purchase and sale transactions," eBay told the court. "People and businesses do not use eBay's platform "to maintain personal relationships" or "share experiences with friends.""
That's a far cry from eBay's early days. Some may remember that during the 2004 eBay Live conference (dubbed the eBay Community Conference), a couple who met on the eBay discussion boards got married: "Wolfe and Brad Aspling, who met on eBay and even bought the engagement ring and wedding dress on the site, decided to hold their wedding - the ultimate community event - on the show floor at eBay Live! 2004." (via ExhibitorOnline.com
But in this week's filing, eBay pointed to the restrictions it places on buyers and sellers when it comes to communicating with one another, including "restricting members from sending unsolicited email offers to potential buyers, email messages sent to a member on a mailing list without that member's prior permission, and invitations to join a mailing list that are not related to a member's eBay Store."
eBay said that when it does allow messaging, it is further restricted: "for example, eBay does not allow members to exchange personal information like email addresses, phone numbers or other contact information, physical addresses, web addresses, and web links."
eBay called the breadth of Meta's subpoena "alarming," claiming it includes topics that have no bearing whatsoever on competition or the underlying case.
"One could be excused from wondering whether Meta is more interested in the FTC matter or how eBay views Meta's Facebook Marketplace product," eBay told the court in its motion to quash.
eBay also characterized Meta's demands gluttonous. eBay seemed particularly perturbed that Meta demanded one of its executives speak to its reasons for changes to eBay's privacy policies and practices in the requested deposition, going back to 2012.
eBay said Meta has insisted that it prepare a witness "to answer questions about e-commerce competition, including confidential details contained in internal documents relating to eBay's e-commerce services that compete with Facebook Marketplace. But Meta is the only entity contending such competition and services fall within the scope of the case, and eBay should not be forced to divulge further confidential information to a competitor absent a clear showing the information will be relevant and necessary, which is not the case here."
Were eBay discussion boards a precursor to today's social networking sites, and is it better for sellers now that it stifles communications between members?