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Virus Repellant Could Get eBay Seller Jail Time

Virus Repellant Could Get eBay Seller Jail Time

An eBay seller pleaded guilty in connection with selling a lanyard that falsely claimed to protect against viruses. In its announcement, the Department of Justice said the seller listed for sale on eBay an unregistered pesticide, “Toamit Virus Shut Out,” to buyers across the US.

“A pesticide is any substance intended for preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating any pest, including viruses,” according to Friday’s announcement.

The same day, Amazon reminded sellers about its rules regarding pesticides. “You may not be aware you are selling products the EPA considers pesticides or pesticide devices, as it can be hard to identify which products qualify and why,” it explained.

“The EPA classifies pesticides or pesticide devices as products that are marketed to disinfect, repel insects, remove allergens, or prevent bacteria, or that make any other antiviral, antimicrobial, antifungal, antibacterial, or other pesticidal claims. If any of your products have been identified as a pesticide or pesticide device, you will receive an email from us with a list of the affected ASINs.”

It’s important to know what you are selling and if there is any chance the Feds may come after you next, especially in the age of COVID-19. US Attorneys are not taking claims of Covid repellants lightly.

“At the height of a raging pandemic killing thousands of people a day, this defendant tried to profit from conning people into believing that a pesticide-coated lanyard would protect them from viruses like COVID-19. This was dangerous, opportunistic fraud,” said United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling in Friday’s DOJ announcement. “We will always pursue these kinds of cases – I have zero tolerance for people who take advantage of the fears of others during a national health crisis.”

Amazon noted that as of October 6, 2020, all listings of pesticides and pesticide devices will require the Pesticide Marking attribute to be filled in with evidence of an EPA Registration number and/or EPA Establishment number, or a certification that the product is exempt from EPA regulations. Beginning January 11, 2021, listings of pesticides and pesticide devices without this information may be subject to removal, it warned.

Sellers have reported “false positives” in the past, however, as they noted in comments underneath Friday’s announcement on the Amazon board. “Amazon decided a stuffed animal toy we sell was a pesticide,” one seller said. EcommerceBytes reported on one such overreaching crackdown last year.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). She is a member of the Online News Association (Sep 2005 - present) and Investigative Reporters and Editors (Mar 2006 - present). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.