DOJ Files Lawsuit Against eBay For Unlawful Sale of Automotive Products Banned by Clean Air Act

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The Department of Justice (DOJ) has initiated a federal lawsuit against eBay, alleging the unlawful sale of automotive products banned by the Clean Air Act. This lawsuit, filed on behalf of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Brooklyn, focuses on eBay’s sale of over 343,000 emissions defeat devices for vehicles, 23,000 “unregistered, misbranded or restricted-use” pesticides, and more than 5,600 paint stripping items containing the illegal substance, Methylene Chloride.

Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim from the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division emphasized that laws prohibiting the sale of products with potential harm to human health and the environment apply equally to e-commerce platforms like eBay as they do to physical stores. He stated the commitment to prevent the unlawful sale and distribution of emissions-defeating devices and dangerous chemicals, highlighting the potential dire consequences of improper usage on individuals and communities.

While this lawsuit isn’t the first collaboration between the DOJ and EPA, their previous actions have primarily targeted smaller businesses. In 2021, they sued EZ Lynk to curb the practice known as “rolling coal,” which involves modifying vehicles to emit excessive black smoke.

The primary concern within the automotive industry relates to emissions defeat devices, even though eBay had reportedly discontinued their sale around a year ago. In November 2022, eBay announced a ban on aftermarket parts that don’t comply with emissions regulations. However, eBay remains a significant player in the automotive culture, annually publishing lists of the most expensive automotive-related products sold on its platform. In the past year, the most expensive item sold was a 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8 engine from a BMW M5, fetching nearly $18,000.

The government’s concern primarily centers on items like defeat devices (hardware or software), throttle response controllers, performance-oriented exhaust systems, and devices that bypass oxygen sensors. The potential fines eBay faces for these products, excluding pesticides and paint stripper, could amount to a staggering $1.65 billion, with a maximum fine of $4,819 per device.

US Attorney Breon Peace for the Eastern District of New York expressed concern about the risks eBay’s sale of these products poses, particularly to communities disproportionately affected by environmental and health hazards. Notably, New York was the second state to adopt the Clean Cars Act II Act, following California’s lead.

In response, eBay defended its practices, claiming that the government’s actions are unprecedented and stating its intention to defend itself. eBay asserted its dedication to allocating significant resources, employing cutting-edge technology, and providing proper training to prevent prohibited items from being listed on its platform. The company also emphasized its collaboration with law enforcement, including the DOJ, spanning over two decades to identify emerging risks and assist in prevention and enforcement efforts. According to eBay, it currently blocks and removes over 99.9% of listings for products cited in the lawsuit, including millions of listings each year.


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