EPA and Justice Department File Complaint Alleging Environmental Violations by eBay
Lawsuit Alleges that eBay Unlawfully Sold Pesticides, Banned Chemical Products and Devices that Defeat Pollution Controls on Motor Vehicles
WASHINGTON - Today, in federal court in Brooklyn, the U.S. Department of Justice, on behalf of EPA, filed a complaint against eBay Inc. (“eBay”) for unlawfully selling, offering for sale, causing the sale of, and distributing hundreds of thousands of products in violation of the Clean Air Act (“CAA”); the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (“FIFRA”); and the Toxic Substances Control Act (“TSCA”).
“Our nation’s environmental laws protect public health and the environment by prohibiting the unlawful sale of defeat devices; unregistered, misbranded and restricted use pesticides; and unsafe products containing toxic chemicals such as methylene chloride,” said Assistant Administrator David M. Uhlmann for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “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.”
“Laws that prohibit selling products that can severely harm human health and the environment apply to e-commerce retailers like eBay just as they do to brick-and-mortar stores,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD). “We are committed to preventing the unlawful sale and distribution of emissions defeating devices and dangerous chemicals that, if used improperly, can lead to dire consequences for individuals and communities.”
“eBay’s sale of emission control defeat devices, pesticides and other unsafe products poses unacceptable risks to our communities disproportionately impacted by environmental and health hazards,” said U.S. Attorney Breon Peace for the Eastern District of New York. “Together with our partners, this Office will vigorously enforce federal law against those whose conduct endangers public health and the environment.”
The Clean Air Act prohibits selling, offering for sale, or causing the sale or offer of aftermarket parts that defeat motor vehicle emission controls (commonly known as “aftermarket defeat devices”). Today’s complaint alleges that eBay sold, offered for sale, or caused the sale of more than 343,000 such parts. Aftermarket defeat devices can cause motor vehicles to emit hundreds to thousands of times more pollution than a motor vehicle with properly functioning emission controls, including nitrogen oxides (“NOx”), carbon monoxide (“CO”), non-methane hydrocarbons (“NMHCs”), and particulate matter (“PM”), and impede efforts by the EPA, states, tribes, and local agencies to plan for and attain air quality standards. Exposure to these pollutants is linked to respiratory and cardiovascular health effects as well as premature death, among other things.
FIFRA prohibits the unlawful distribution or sale of unregistered, misbranded, and restricted use pesticides, and authorizes EPA to issue Stop Sale, Use, or Removal Orders to anyone with ownership, custody or control of such pesticides being unlawfully sold or distributed. Today’s complaint also alleges that eBay has unlawfully distributed or sold at least 23,000 such products, and that some of those sales were in direct violation of a stop sale order issued to eBay in 2020 and amended in 2021. Examples of these pesticides include a high toxicity insecticide banned in the U.S., restricted use pesticides that only certified applicators may apply, and products fraudulently claiming to protect users against SARS-CoV-2.
TSCA’s Methylene Chloride Rule prohibits retailers from distributing in commerce products containing methylene chloride for paint and coating removal to prevent unreasonable risks, including death, presented by these types of products. The complaint alleges that eBay has distributed over 5,600 items in violation of TSCA’s Methylene Chloride Rule, including illicit paint and coating removal products.
The complaint seeks a ruling that eBay’s business practices as an e-commerce retailer violated the CAA, FIFRA, and TSCA and injunctive relief to enjoin eBay from further violations of these laws, as well as civil penalties for violations of the CAA.