eBay has quietly expanded its policy on car and truck parts that disable a vehicle’s emissions control system, known as ‘defeat devices.’
While devices that manipulate or disable a vehicle’s emissions system have always been illegal on public roads (as governed by the Clean Air Act), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began a more aggressive compliance campaign in 2020, making the crackdown a national priority.
A study by the EPA’s Air Enforcement Division revealed that sales of defeat devices for certain diesel trucks from 2009 to 2020 resulted in more than 570,000 tons of excess Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) and 5,000 tons of excess particulate matter (PM) over the lifetime of the trucks.
Especially problematic had been the rise of performance products that manipulated the emissions systems on light- to medium-duty diesel trucks powered by Dodge Cummins, Ford Powerstroke, and Chevy/GMC Duramax engines.
But the performance industry wasn’t just focused on diesel trucks, some products disabled the emissions systems on gas cars and trucks.
Many of these products were usually marketed “for off-road use only,” meaning they couldn’t be used on vehicles licensed for public road use.
California has been at the forefront of cracking down on illegal defeat devices and tuning products that modify OEM emissions control systems.
In 2013, the state took the regulatory stance that a vehicle’s software is part of its factory-equipped emissions control system, and modifying the software in the engine computer (ECU) is the equivalent of making physical changes to the emissions systems.
Performance parts, such as engine tuners, air intakes and other modifications that could affect emissions, must be approved by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) before they can be legally sold to a California resident.
The state has been at war for decades with the aftermarket industry on these issues, and now it seems the feds are stepping up their compliance enforcement as well.
For more than a year, eBay has been refocusing on growing its vehicle parts and accessories (P&A) business.
eBay has also been a source for performance enthusiasts to find car parts that may not be legal in their states for public highway use.
While CARB standards have also been adopted by a few other states, typically only California residents faced major obstacles in obtaining these parts, with some eBay sellers not shipping to California to avoid the potential wrath of the state or having to adhere to selling policies by the manufacturers of these parts.
But the more aggressive stance by the EPA on removing these products from circulation apparently has caused eBay to make some policy changes.
Previously, eBay’s policy on defeat devices was broad, stating that “anything that indicates it will defeat, bypass, or shut down emission control devices” is prohibited on the marketplace.
This was also covered under its more general policy heading of ‘Vehicles, parts and accessories policy.’
But sometime in the past month, a new broader policy page appeared on eBay under the heading of ‘Emissions control defeat devices policy,’ providing a far more detailed list of prohibited car and truck parts on the platform.
eBay says this new policy covers “products that bypass, defeat or render inoperative emission-control systems” and are not allowed on the marketplace “either on their own or when combined with other hardware or software.”
This new policy prohibits the following items on eBay:
- Tuners, services, software or devices that modify the performance of vehicles, such as cars, trucks and off-road vehicles.
- Aftermarket standalone (non-OEM) electronic control unit (ECU), including full electronic fuel injection (EFI) conversion kits.
- Powertrain or exhaust parts intended for “race only” or “off-road only”.
- Active fuel management/Dynamic fuel management or auto start-stop disablers.
- Blocking plates for emission control systems.
- Products that remove factory catalytic converters (CAT) or diesel particulate filters (DPF), selective catalytic reduction (SCR) and diesel exhaust fluid (DEF).
- Throttle response controllers.
- Exhaust servo eliminators.
- Devices intended to bypass or reduce flow to oxygen sensors.
But the problem with this new policy is that it also includes parts commonly used in motorsports and other legal off-road uses.
For example, the new policy prohibits the sale of powertrain products that are marked for “race only” use.
Powertrain components are just about any product that pushes a vehicle forward such as the engine, transmission, driveshaft, axels, and differential.
That’s a very broad list of common motorsports parts that eBay says are now technically prohibited on the site.
Another example is performance tuners and software that tweak the engine ECU.
While it’s true that these tuners were a big part of the problem, especially with diesel trucks, there are 50-state legal performance tuners that have CARB approval and are now prohibited on the marketplace.
In addition, stand-alone ECUs or software to tune engines for motorsports are legal as long as the vehicle is not used on public roads.
Interestingly, eBay is not banning OBDII scanners, which can scan error codes for diagnostic purposes.
Yet, there are some very expensive OBDII scanners on the platform right now that appear to include tuner features that could modify the performance of a vehicle.
Several other products on this list have legal and legitimate uses as well, even in California.
It seems eBay has decided to expand its policy to include parts that may have a “dual” purpose to avoid scrutiny by the EPA, and eBay doesn’t have the resources to filter or understand what parts may or may not be legal (or under which situation).
Or is this just another example of inconsistent enforcement by eBay?
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