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DOJ sues eBay for selling illegal devices: 'Unreasonable risks, including death, presented by these types of products'

According to CNBC, eBay could be on the hook for $2 billion in fines.

According to CNBC, eBay could be on the hook for $2 billion in fines.

Photo Credit: iStock

Cyclists, electric vehicle drivers, and others rejoice: Rolling coal may be on its way out.

The United States Department of Justice cracked down on Sept. 27 by filing a lawsuit against eBay for selling illegal devices that defeat pollution controls on motor vehicles, CNBC reported.

The suit states eBay sold, caused the sale of, or offered for sale 343,000 aftermarket devices that bypass pollution controls and "significantly increase pollution emissions — including carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter and nonmethane hydrocarbons — that harm public health." 

According to CNBC, eBay could be on the hook for $2 billion in fines — $5,580 for each offense — for facilitating the practice of rolling coal, in which drivers use illegally modified systems to emit copious amounts of toxic exhaust from their tailpipes.

CNBC said culprits "[install] a tampering device to pump more diesel into a vehicle's engine than it can handle, leading it to spew out sooty black clouds of exhaust that pollute the air."

The Environmental Protection Agency regulates air pollution via the Clean Air Act, which includes guidelines for vehicles, engines, and fuel. These defeat devices, tampering, and uncertified imported automobiles are all subject to punishment under the law.

The filing also stated eBay violated the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act and Toxic Substances Control Act by "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" and distributing more than 5,600 items that "contain methylene chloride for paint and coating removal to prevent unreasonable risks, including death, presented by these types of products."

Rolling coal produces diesel fumes that are 40 to 100 times more dangerous than legal pollutants, according to the Sierra Club. It is illegal, but it's usually only the illicit parts or tampering that are sanctionable.

The toxins emitted by offenders contribute to ground-level ozone and smog, and the EPA states they can harm children, older adults, and those with lung diseases such as asthma. The risks include pre-term and low-birthweight infants, impaired lung development in children, childhood leukemia, higher rates of asthma onset and aggravation, cardiovascular disease, and premature death.

Environmental consequences include reduced visibility or haze and lake and stream acidification, which reduces biodiversity and influences species at all levels of the food chain.

CNBC reported eBay stated it had blocked "more than 99.9% [of] the listings for the [defeat device] products cited by the DOJ, including millions of listings each year."

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