eBay Faces $2 Billion in Fines for Selling ‘Rolling Coal’ Devices

By: Ben Campbell | Last updated: Nov 11, 2023

The popular online marketplace eBay is being sued by the Department of Justice (DOJ) for selling “rolling coal” devices.

The DOJ plans to fine eBay thousands of dollars for each “rolling coal” device that allows drivers to bypass the Clean Air Act and release harmful clouds of smoke and toxins from their tailpipes.

eBay Faces Billions in Fines

eBay is a world-renowned e-commerce platform and one of the oldest in existence. Despite the recent rise in online markets, it remains among the most popular online.


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However, their stock price could be set to plummet as they face billions in fines for the sale of devices that allow pickup trucks to emit toxic gas clouds.

Department of Justice Goes After eBay

The Department of Justice has recently filed a lawsuit against eBay, alleging in court documents that the e-commerce giant allowed the sale of ‘defeat devices.’


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Defeat devices are specifically designed to cancel out vehicle emission controls. Anything like this is in clear violation of the Clean Air Act, according to the DOJ.

Over 300,000 Defeat Devices Sold

The DOJ claims eBay allowed the sale of over 300,000 defeat devices over an eight-year period.


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According to the lawsuit, eBay is subject to a $5,580 fine for each of the transactions that took place between 2015 to 2023.

What Is a Defeat Device?

Defeat devices are generally purchased to increase the overall performance of diesel engines. However, people also fit them onto their pickup trucks to produce “rolling coal.”


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Rolling coal is a term used to define a practice in which a driver revs their engine to blow out a thick cloud of smoke from the tailpipe.

Better Mileage With Defeat Devices

Defeat devices are generally advertised on e-commerce sites as items that can improve mileage and extend the lifespan of expensive components, ultimately saving customers thousands of dollars.

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However, many devices are considered aftermarket purchases, and their use on vehicles to bypass the Clean Air Act is considered a felony in the United States.


Thousands of Times More Pollution

Defeat devices force engines to release fumes and toxins that exceed the legal limit.

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According to the lawsuit filed by the DOJ against eBay, the devices allow a car to release “Thousands of times more pollution than a vehicle that has normally functioning emission reduction controls.”


Pollution and Toxic Emissions

A spokesperson for the DOJ claims the defeat devices produce an array of harmful side effects.

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They said, “Aftermarket defeat devices significantly increase pollution emissions, including carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, and nonmethane hydrocarbons.”


Harmful Towards Human Health

While it’s clear they are horrible for the environment, the defeat devices can also have an adverse effect on human health.

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With regards to the dangers posed towards human health, the DOJ spokesperson claimed the toxic gas “Harms public health and impedes efforts by the EPA, states, Tribes, and local agencies to plan for and attain air quality standards.”


Time to Ban Rolling Coal?

While it’s considered harmful to the environment, only a handful of states, including New Jersey, Maine, Maryland, Utah, and Colorado, have laws that ban the rolling coal practice.

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However, other states may soon follow suit due to outcry from various environmental agencies.


When Rolling Coal Goes Bad

In 2021, a 16-year-old in Texas ran over a group of cyclists while trying to ‘roll coal’ past them. Four of the cyclists were taken to hospital for their injuries.

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According to the local prosecutors, the teen was charged with six felony counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, one for each cyclist he hit with his car.


Is it Really Worth It?

eBay has recently updated its terms and conditions, claiming it no longer sells such defeat devices.

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The website says, “Products that bypass, defeat, or render inoperative emission-control systems are not allowed.” However, it appears the DOJ is still planning on suing the e-commerce giant.