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Angie's List lawsuit charges Amazon stole trade secrets

June 23, 2015

Angie’s List Inc. has filed a federal lawsuit against online goliath Amazon.com, charging the company stole service-provider lists and other proprietary information in its quest to build a direct competitor, Amazon Local.

“To be clear, Angie’s List welcomes the competition, but it expects that its competitors will comply with the law,” the 42-page lawsuit filed Friday in Indianapolis says.

The suit includes as defendants nearly two dozen Amazon employees who Angie’s List charges signed up as members and then violated the terms of their membership agreements, which restrict use of the information to personal purchases.

Instead, according to the suit, Amazon employees repeatedly downloaded service-provider profiles, service provider reviews and other information for Amazon Local’s use—acts Indianapolis-based Angie’s says constituted computer fraud and misappropriation of trade secrets.

“Amazon Local has chosen not to devote the necessary time, resources, and effort to compete legitimately with Angie’s List and to develop its own research to identify and solicit service providers to work with,” according to the suit.

The suit seeks unspecified damages. It also asks the court to issue an injunction blocking the behavior and to order Amazon to return the allegedly surreptitiously obtained information.

A representative of Seattle-based Amazon was not immediately available for comment.

Amazon is among an emerging field of competitors to Angie’s List in the business of connecting consumers to service providers, such as roofers, painters and home remodelers.

Amazon Local has been pushing into the home services market since June 2014, touting discounts of up to 75 percent on “local services, products and experiences.” National news reports say Google also is angling to be a player.

In a conference call with analysts in April, Angie’s List CEO Bill Oesterle said neither company is yet having a noticeable impact on Angie’s List but that he is not taking them lightly.

“The marketplace is like the vastness of the ocean. So we are not running into them from a competitive standpoint at all,” Oesterle said. “But … these are formidable competitors, and over the long term we have to have the best product, the best service in the marketplace.”

Angie’s List has 3.1 million paid members. In the first quarter of 2015, it earned $4.4 million on revenue of $84 million.
 

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