Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Why this online seller is NOT recommended by Angie's List

Angie's List has been around for a long time - as long as, say Yahoo. It's a curated service listing a number of local vendors that provide services.

Last year, someone else entered that market niche - Amazon, with a service called Amazon Local.

The question that immediately arose - when the big disruptor enters the services marketplace, after having already disrupted the book market, was Angie's List in trouble?

Perhaps. After Amazon Local's launch, some people on Angie's List started getting calls:

Kristin Baker, a "project launch specialist, used her account to contact a business and tell it: "I am reaching out to see if you would be interested in doing a similar offer on Amazon as you are doing on Angie's List."

...Samantha McDonald, an Amazon Local "regional marketing consultant," did the same thing, sending an Angie's List contact a message: "I'm reaching out to you because I work for and run our site in the Syracuse area that features local businesses to our shoppers in your area. We are looking to feature a chimney sweeping offer to our customers and I came across your business on Angie's List and see you have great reviews."

Seems legit, right? Except that to find out who is on Angie's List, you actually have to join Angie's List. And Angie's List doesn't like it if you take their lists to other Amazon.

Angie's List claims that Amazon Local and its employees breached and tortiously interfered with contracts by violating its membership agreement to identify credible service providers and solicit their business.

To steal this information, Amazon Local employees signed up for Angie's List accounts, some under false names and addresses, and searched for businesses, many of them far away from their homes, Angie's List says....Its membership agreement "explicitly prohibits the use of Angie's List's accounts and information for commercial purposes," according to the lawsuit.

Several statutes are cited as the basis for Angie's List's legal complaint, including the Stored Communications Act. And there are penalties for violating the Stored Communications Act.

This provision is intended to address "computer hackers" and corporate spies. The provision is not intended to criminalize access to "electronic bulletin boards," which are generally open to the public. A communication will be found to be readily accessible to the general public if the telephone number of the system and other means of access are widely known, and if a person does not, in the course of gaining access, encounter any warnings, encryptions, password requests, or other indicia of intended privacy....

If a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2701(a) was committed for commercial advantage, malicious destruction or damage, or private financial gain, the violator could receive up to a year in prison and a fine as provided by Title 18, United States Code, for the first offense and up to two years imprisonment and a fine as provided by Title 18 for a second or subsequent offense. In all other cases, a jail term of up to six months and a fine under Title 18 could be imposed.

This law can apply in other situations, such as the allegations that the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team hacked the Houston Astros computer system.
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