The US Justice Department has filed a lawsuit against eBay on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), accusing the online auction giant of allowing the sale of hundreds of thousands of toxic and harmful products that violate US environmental law. The lawsuit was filed in a Brooklyn federal court.
According to the lawsuit, eBay has “sold, offered for sale, or caused the sale” of over 340,000 aftermarket defeat devices. These devices are car and truck accessories designed to disable the emissions controls required by US law, with the aim of increasing fuel economy. Selling such devices is a violation of the Clean Air Act.
In addition, eBay is accused of permitting the sale and purchase of more than 23,000 wrongly-labeled or restricted pesticide items. These sales violate the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act. The platform also allegedly allowed the sale of unspecified bogus COVID-19 cures, which is in violation of previous stop sale orders issued in 2020 and 2021.
Furthermore, eBay stands accused of allowing the sale of over 5,600 items containing methylene chloride, a chemical that is extremely hazardous to human health. Last year, the EPA declared methylene chloride off-limits for 52 purposes due to severe health risks, including cancer, neurotoxicity, and death.
Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the DoJ’s Environment and Natural Resources Division emphasized that laws prohibiting the sale of products that can harm human health and the environment apply to e-commerce retailers like eBay, just as they do to brick-and-mortar stores. The lawsuit alleges violations of the Clean Air Act, the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, and the Toxic Substances Control Act.
Although eBay does not directly sell products, it serves as a platform for auctions and sales between its users. While the well-known Section 230 clause protects internet platforms from liability for information posted by third-party users, eBay can potentially be held responsible for the actions of its users if there is federal criminal liability involved.
If found guilty, eBay could face billions of dollars in fines. The company has responded to the lawsuit, describing it as “entirely unprecedented” and stating that it will fight the charges. eBay claims that it already blocks and removes more than 99.9% of listings for the products cited by the DoJ.
eBay’s terms of service require sellers to comply with all applicable laws, and the platform has detailed policies in place that outline banned items. Pesticide sales have been restricted on the site since at least 2022, defeat devices are prohibited, and methylene chloride is listed as a banned item under the hazardous materials policy.
In conclusion, the US Justice Department’s lawsuit against eBay alleges that the platform has allowed the sale of hundreds of thousands of toxic and harmful products that violate US environmental laws. eBay is now facing legal consequences and potential fines for its alleged actions.