Ed’s note: Article updated to clarify some confusion over which accusations were being referred to
Delivery Hero’s CEO has stoked the fires of controversy which have never been far away in reent weeks by slamming its competitors for carrying out what he claims is an online smear campaign. Niklas Östberg had previously shared the job with Fabian Siegel, whose departure last week just as the authorities had fined him and six other past and current employees for copying information from rival Pizza.de caused a media stir – although the company insists the timing was coincidental.
Now, in an interview carried out internally and released, Östberg – who also revealed the acquisition of eatitnow.co.uk – has criticised the authorities for the way accusations of cyber attacks against Delivery Hero were handled, and also said the company has taken legal action of its own over alleged libel.
Earlier in the week, Delivery Hero’s main investor Team Europe had gone on the attack, with spokesman Lukas Jaworski taking a swipe at the food delivery platform’s competition for attacking the “company’s integrity and reputation by starting a PR campaign,” attacks which he claimed were due to jealousy at Delivery Hero’s success.
Several years of legal battles had come to a head recently when Siegel and six others were fined for copying menu information from Pizza.de in 2010 ahead of the Delivery Hero launch. Jaworski, writing in a newsletter email on Monday, said that the issue had been blown out of proportion:
“In November 2010 there were around 50 menus typed from a competitors website. After a notification the menus were taken offline. The fact is: Fabian’s leave has nothing to do with it. The fact is: In civil court the issue was dropped two weeks later and both parties split the legal bill – the alleged damage was less than 500€. In the case of the order of summary punishment – which can be issued without a trial for lesser misdemeanor – the Delivery Hero management decided to settle the case by paying a fine and concentrate on its mission: building a global category leader.” (sic)
And now 32-year-old Swede Östberg also hit out at the authorities, saying they failed to inform the company that action had been brought again with regards to different accusations from last year that his company was conducting DDoS attacks online. He said: “You know, we have not even been informed by the prosecutor that the proceedings have been brought up again. We have repeatedly requested access to the files, since our last official information was that the criminal proceedings have been settled and that the other party had appealed. Two days ago we were finally told that no new facts were presented which would allow a different assessment of the situation. Personally, I think we’ve had enough now, especially since we also struggle with cyber-attacks on a day to day basis. To put out bounties and premiums to catch the hackers is a very unpleasant publicity stunt. Even with all the competition on the market, this can’t be the solution, can it?”
When asked if any action had been taken for this alleged libel or slander, Östberg said: “We filed a restraining order in Civil Court against lieferando. Lieferando is not allowed to comment or spread certain statements regarding Lieferheld being related to the cyber-attacks.
There has been plenty of to-ing and fro-ing between Lieferheld and lieferando in recent months. There was no response from lieferando to a request for comment sent by Silicon Allee.
Östberg went on to claim that the reason Delivery Hero is portrayed as an aggressive player in the market is because the media report it repeatedly. This he puts down to jealousy at the company’s progress: “It seems that our success evokes skepticism and envy among other individual actors which I personally find very unfortunate.”
During the curious interview, which seemed to serve both as a way for Delivery Hero to go on the offensive and as a means of emphasizing positives, Östberg also looked to the future with much optimism. He said: “We are known for our innovative services and products and want to continue building on these strengths… The market is tight and we want to stand out from the crowd by offering more services and innovations, and also become profitable.”
Östberg’s hard hitting words aimed at his rivals are sure to provoke some response. He is certainly correct in saying the online food delivery space is a busy one, and the battle for market share could well become increasingly bitter, whether or not there really are sustained online smear campaigns being undertaken.
Note: The Niklas Östberg quotes in this article are from the official English translation of the interview sent out by Delivery Hero, replacing the author’s own translation of the original German which were more literal.