- The Justice Department sued eBay for “unlawfully selling and distributing hundreds of thousands of products” that violated the Clean Air Act and other environmental laws, according to a complaint filed on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in federal court Wednesday.
- The filing accused the e-commerce platform of illegally selling or offering the sale of more than 343,000 aftermarket “defeat” devices, which help vehicles generate more power and evade emission controls, in addition to significantly increasing air pollution.
- The San Jose, California-based company could face billions of dollars in penalties and be fined over $5,000 for each CAA violation.
The U.S. government alleges that eBay, which operates as both an auction house and marketplace website, allowed the sale of several harmful products that violated three major environmental and public welfare laws, according to a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
In addition to infringing CAA guidelines, the complaint alleges eBay violated the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act for unlawfully distributing “at least 23,000 unregistered, misbranded or restricted-use pesticide products,” despite receiving a stop sale order from the EPA in 2020, which was updated in 2021. The products offered on the website include a banned high toxicity insecticide and items fraudulently claiming to protect users against COVID-19.
The complaint also states that eBay violated the Toxic Substances Control Act by distributing over 5,600 paint and coating removal products containing methylene chloride, a compound that poses health risks with prolonged exposure.
“The complaint filed today demonstrates that EPA will hold online retailers responsible for the unlawful sale of products on their websites that can harm consumers and the environment,” said David Uhlmann, assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, in a press release.
This isn’t the first time the EPA has held an online retailer accountable for violating environmental and public welfare laws. The agency has repeatedly investigated Amazon for illegally selling industrial-grade pesticides on its platform, most recently issuing a “stop sale” order in 2021 and fining the retail giant $2.5 million. Amazon previously paid $1.2 million to settle a separate lawsuit with the EPA over the distribution of illegal pesticides in 2018.
However, eBay contested the allegations and called the lawsuit “entirely unprecedented” and said the company “intends to vigorously defend itself,” according to a statement issued Wednesday.
“Maintaining a safe and trusted marketplace for our global community of sellers and buyers is a fundamental principle of our business at eBay,” the statement said. “Indeed, eBay is blocking and removing more than 99.9% of the listings for the products cited by the DOJ, including millions of listings each year.”
EBay declined to provide sister publication ESG Dive with further comments.