Ebay could face up to $2 billion in fines for allegedly allowing the distribution and sale of hundreds of thousands of products that significantly increase the pollution released by diesel pickup trucks.
The e-commerce giant is accused of allowing the sale of more than 343,000 aftermarket “rolling coal” devices – designed to override motor vehicle emissions controls – through its platform, in violation of the Clean Air Act , according to a Department of Justice federal complaint filed in Brooklyn. court.
eBay sold the products between November 2015 and January 2023, with each device sold subject to a $5,580 fine, the federal agency said in its complaint filed on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Products that bypass automobile emissions controls are used to increase the power of a diesel truck and allow it to spew a plume of black exhaust into what is called “roll coal.” Some drivers appear to be using these devices as a sort of anti-environmental protest, targeting electric or hybrid vehicles like Teslas and Priuses or cyclists.
According to the EPA, coal rolling is a major source of air pollution due to nitrogen oxides released into the air. Exposure to exhaust fumes also puts people at risk of developing respiratory conditions such as asthma and bronchitis, research shows.
The EPA also claims that eBay illegally sold at least 23,000 pesticide products, including a highly toxic insecticide banned in the United States, and more than 5,600 products containing methylene chloride, also a toxic chemical.
“Laws that prohibit the sale of products that can seriously 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 Division of the environment and natural resources of the Ministry of Justice. said in a Sept. 27 statement announcing the lawsuit against eBay. “We are committed to preventing the illegal sale and distribution of emissions-reducing devices and hazardous chemicals which, if used inappropriately, can have disastrous consequences for individuals and communities.”
Ebay called the government’s situation unprecedented and vowed to defend itself. The company “already blocks and removes more than 99.9% of listings for products cited by the DOJ, including millions of listings each year,” the online retailer said in a statement.
The company said it is cooperating with law enforcement to try to prevent third parties from selling unsafe or illegal products on its platform.
“And eBay has worked closely with law enforcement, including the DOJ, for more than two decades to identify emerging risks and assist in prevention and enforcement.”
California-based parts manufacturer Sinister Mfg. Co. pleaded guilty to criminal charges and agreed to pay $1 million in fines for tampering with the monitoring device of an emissions control system on a diesel truck, the Justice Department announced in august. The company has sold nearly 40,000 defeat devices, including at least 35,960 kits that disable vehicles’ exhaust gas recirculation systems, according to the agency.