eBay under fire: The digital marketplace accused of sidestepping environmental laws

September 28, 2023 Rob Abruzzese
U.S. Attorney Breon Peace announced the sentencing of a 30-year-old from South Carolina, who was found guilty of selling guns in New York City.Photo: Nathan Howard/AP
Share this:

U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Breon Peace announced on Wednesday that his office is going to sue eBay. 

A civil complaint was filed against the e-commerce behemoth, accusing it of being a conduit for the sale of illicit products that flout environmental protection laws.

This action, instituted by the United States on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), confronts the e-commerce giant with allegations of systematic violations of pivotal environmental and public health statutes. It’s a scenario interlacing the complexities of law, the dynamics of e-commerce, and the imperatives of environmental and public safety.

According to the complaint, eBay allegedly facilitated the sale of more than 343,000 aftermarket defeat devices. These devices, contravening the CAA, are accused of negating vehicle emission controls, contributing to air pollution and undermining public health initiatives.

News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

Furthermore, the e-commerce platform is alleged to have been a marketplace for at least 23,000 prohibited pesticides. These, as highlighted in the complaint, were sold in defiance of FIFRA and even an explicit stop sale order issued to eBay in preceding years.

“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 Peace. “Together with our partners, this office will vigorously enforce federal law against those whose conduct endangers public health and the environment.”

eBay is accused of facilitating the sale and distribution of products that directly contravene the Clean Air Act (CAA), the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), and the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

The case represents a nuanced exploration of statutory interpretation and application in the digital age. Under the CAA, eBay allegedly enabled the sale of over 343,000 aftermarket defeat devices. These devices, designed to bypass motor vehicle emission controls, have legal ramifications that transcend environmental degradation. They undermine EPA’s regulatory frameworks and state efforts to achieve air quality standards, raising intricate legal questions about liability and enforcement in online marketplaces.

eBay allegedly also played host to the sale of at least 23,000 unregistered, misbranded and restricted-use pesticides. The court examines the role and responsibility of e-commerce platforms in preventing sales that violate explicit EPA stop sale orders and broader federal regulatory frameworks.

With eBay accused of distributing more than 5,600 items containing methylene chloride, a chemical strictly restricted due to its associated health risks. The case will set precedent for the interpretation and application of TSCA’s Methylene Chloride Rule in the context of e-commerce.


Leave a Comment

Leave a Comment