In response to allegations that it facilitated the sale of equipment used in the production of illegal drugs, eBay has agreed to pay a settlement of $59 million.
The U.S. Department of Justice claimed that the online platform sold large numbers of pill presses and encapsulating machines, some of which ended up in the hands of people later convicted of drug-related offenses. This equipment has the potential to manufacture counterfeit pills, including those containing the potent opioid fentanyl.
eBay was accused of violating the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), which makes companies follow strict record-keeping rules and report products to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The pill presses sold on eBay were noted to have the capacity to produce thousands of pills per hour, and encapsulating machines were also part of the equipment sold.
The backdrop to this development is the ongoing opioid crisis in many U.S. states. The investigation by the U.S. government revealed that purchasers of pill presses on eBay also bought counterfeit molds, stamps, or dyes to produce fake pharmaceutical pills.
In 2022, drug overdoses claimed the lives of more than 110,000 people in the U.S., with over two-thirds of those deaths attributed to fentanyl and other synthetic opioids, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta said that counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl were playing a central role in the opioid epidemic and potentially contributing to the high number of overdoses. She said that the department is committed to using all available enforcement measures to ensure companies selling pill-making equipment comply with the law.
While eBay denied the allegations, it settled the case for $59 million to avoid litigation costs. As part of the settlement, the e-commerce giant pledged to take additional actions to comply with the CSA. In a statement, the company said it is committed to maintaining a safe and trusted marketplace for its global community of sellers and buyers.