The Justice Department filed a complaint against eBay Inc. today for unlawfully selling 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). The complaint was filed on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in federal court in Brooklyn.
The complaint alleges that eBay sold, offered for sale or caused the sale of more than 343,000 aftermarket defeat devices, which defeat motor vehicle emission controls, a violation of the CAA. Aftermarket defeat devices significantly increase pollution emissions – including carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter and nonmethane hydrocarbons – that harm public health and impede efforts by the EPA, states, Tribes and local agencies to plan for and attain air quality standards.
The complaint also alleges that eBay has violated FIFRA by unlawfully distributing or selling at least 23,000 unregistered, misbranded or restricted-use pesticide products, even in violation of a stop sale order EPA issued to eBay in 2020 and amended in 2021. Examples include a high toxicity insecticide banned in the United States, restricted use pesticides that only certified applicators may apply and products fraudulently claiming to protect users against the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Finally, the complaint alleges that eBay has distributed over 5,600 items in violation of the TSCA Methylene Chloride Rule. The rule prohibits retailers from distributing in commerce products that contain methylene chloride for paint and coating removal to prevent unreasonable risks, including death, presented by these types of products.
“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.”
“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 of the 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.”
“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 complaint seeks a court order that eBay’s business practices as an e-commerce retailer violated the CAA, FIFRA and TSCA and requests injunctive relief to enjoin eBay from further violations of these laws, as well as civil penalties for CAA violations.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, is being handled by Senior Attorney James Freeman for ENRD’s Environmental Enforcement Section and by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Blume and Paulina Stamatelos for the Eastern District of New York.