Yves here. What is striking is not that eBay sold illegal and dangerous products. It’s that the numbers in this Department of Justice suit are so big.
By Shannon Kelleher. Originally published at The New Lede
Online retail giant eBay has been illegally selling hundreds of thousands of harmful pesticides and other unsafe products, posing “unacceptable risks” to communities across the country, according to a complaint filed Wednesday by the US Department of Justice (DOJ).
The legal action was filed on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in federal court in New York. It argues that the company’s actions violated environmental laws including the Clean Air Act (CAA), the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), and the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).
“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,” David Uhlmann, Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, said in a press release.
The DOJ and EPA allege that eBay sold at least 23,000 unregistered, misbranded, and restricted use pesticides, including a highly toxic insecticide banned in the US, and products that make false claims about protecting against the virus that causes COVID-19.
This was not eBay’s first alleged FIFRA violation. In June 2020, the EPA ordered eBay, as well as Amazon, to stop selling pesticide-containing products that claimed to prevent COVID-19. The following summer, the agency ordered eBay to stop selling an additional 170 unregistered or misbranded pesticide products.
A team of journalists were able to buy five different pesticides and herbicides illegal in the United Kingdom through eBay’s general and UK websites in 2018, including atrazine, which by law may only be purchased by certified herbicide users in the US.
The DOJ complaint also alleges that eBay sold over 5,600 items such as paints and coating removal products that contain methyl chloride, which presents numerous health risks, including death.
And the DOJ alleges Ebay sold or offered more than 343,000 “aftermarket defeat devices,” which allow drivers to bypass their vehicles’ emissions controls, allowing cars and trucks to emit hundreds to thousands of times more pollution. These harmful nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, non-methane hydrocarbons, and particulate matter low air quality and increase risk for cardiovascular problems and premature death.
Sales of aftermarket defeat devices for diesel trucks after 2009 and before 2020 released more than 570,000 tons of excess nitrogen oxides and 5,000 tons of excess particulate matter into the atmosphere over the trucks’ lifetimes, according to an EPA study.
“The Government’s actions are entirely unprecedented and eBay intends to vigorously defend itself,” the company said in a statement, countering that it has dedicated “significant resources” and uses “state-of-the-art technology” to prevent products that violate environmental laws from being listed on its website.
“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. And eBay has partnered closely with law enforcement, including the DOJ, for over two decades on identifying emerging risks and assisting with prevention and enforcement.”