AuctionWatch supplies eBay listings despite block

Resuming its battle with eBay, AuctionWatch says it relaunched its auction search engine, once again comparing eBay auctions side-by-side with those of the other auction houses.

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Resuming its battle with eBay, AuctionWatch relaunched its auction search engine today, once again comparing eBay auctions side-by-side with those of the other auction houses.

The action comes some two months after eBay blocked AuctionWatch from searching its auction listings. eBay basically programmed its servers to ignore requests from the auction service site's Internet Protocol (IP) address.

Representatives of the San Bruno, Calif.-based AuctionWatch said the company had installed a proprietary system that allows the company's search engine to work around eBay's block and to integrate eBay's listings with those from Amazon.com, Yahoo's auctions and other auction sites.

Though AuctionWatch chief executive Rodrigo Sales declined to say how the new system worked, he said it is "virtually unblockable." Sales said it is only being used to search eBay's listings.

AuctionWatch has been at a disadvantage compared with Bidder's Edge and other auction service sites that despite eBay's objections, have continued to list eBay's auctions alongside those of other auction sites. "We feel that this is something that consumers want," Sales said. "We feel we have to respond to our customers needs."

eBay spokesman Kevin Pursglove said the company received a letter from AuctionWatch alerting it to the company's move. He said eBay had not yet decided how and when it will respond. "We're still reviewing the situation," Pursglove said.

Online auctions represent a growing segment of e-commerce. Gomez Advisors, for example, projects that consumer spending on online auctions will grow from $4.5 billion last year to $15.5 billion in 2001.

As the online auction market has grown, more and more companies seem to want a piece of the action. Companies such as Yahoo, Amazon and Excite have started their own auctions, while sites such as Ruby Lane, Bidder's Edge and AuctionWatch have emerged to cater to the needs of auction users.

eBay's battle with the auction service sites began last September, when it asked several of them to cease searching its auction listings. The leading auction house has claimed that the auction searches affect system performance for eBay users, display incomplete or inaccurate results, and violate its intellectual property.

AuctionWatch launched its auction search after eBay's initial appeal to the auction service sites. After eBay blocked AuctionWatch, Bidder's Edge, which was one of the first sites to comply with eBay's appeal, resumed searching eBay's auctions. Last month, eBay filed suit against Bidder's Edge, seeking to block its search.

Meanwhile, another auction service site, AuctionRover.com, signed an agreement with eBay last month, which licenses it to search the auction leader's listings.

AuctionWatch had the opportunity to sign a similar agreement with eBay, but declined because it wasn't what the company's users wanted, Sales said. Since eBay blocked AuctionWatch, the company has been listing eBay's auctions in a separate window from its other search results. Similarly, AuctionRover separates eBay's listings from those of other auction sites by providing them under different tabs.

Repeating past assertions, Sales said he expects eBay to step up its fight with AuctionWatch, and possibly sue the company.

"If what has happened with Bidder's Edge is any indication, eBay will try to block our services again," he said.