A number of auto recyclers selling illegal auto parts were removed from one of the largest online marketplaces in the world as part of an awareness campaign among 20,000 sellers.
During a two-week trial in February, the Environmental Protection Agency (EA) and eBay UK teamed up to target vehicle manufacturers and parts sellers who are using the marketplace to advertise vehicle parts, including catalytic converters, without the appropriate environmental permits.
In the crackdown, 10 traders were suspected of having not sold the correct permissions and their accounts were suspended. As a result, over half of the salespeople then applied for the correct permits.
Hotspots identified by the Vehicle Recyclers Association (VRA) where illegal sellers operate are in Yorkshire, the West Midlands and Lancashire. Many dealers do not know that they need a permit or how to properly dismantle a vehicle, dispose of the hazardous waste, deal with fire risks and the resulting threats to the environment.
Malcolm Lythgo, Head of Waste Management at the Environment Agency, said:
Our partnership with eBay has been very successful in preventing and disrupting illegal vehicle breakdowns and parts dealers, and we are pleased that our intervention has resulted in more companies requesting the right permit.
If disposed of improperly, hazardous components such as engine oil, coolant and batteries can contaminate plants, animals, soil and groundwater – even get into drinking water and endanger human health. This is why it is so important for auto recyclers and parts dealers to obey the law.
We want to work constructively with companies so that they can act in accordance with the law, but it is also important to emphasize that sellers who continue to operate illegally will be reported to the police and the HMRC and that we will conduct our own enforcement activities on the ground.
The UK has a strong track record of end-of-life vehicle recycling and we are taking steps to ensure this continues successfully.
Delphine Dauba-Pantanacce, Director, Legal Counsel, Global Regulatory at eBay, said:
Our partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency has been critical to better protecting the public unwittingly buying parts from illegal dealers.
We hope that this successful partnership, which will grow and advance in 2021, will lead the industry and be an example of effective collaboration between private companies and the public sector, where everyone works towards a common goal of protecting consumers.
As part of the measures against illegal vehicle breakers, eBay contacted around 20,000 active sellers to persuade them to trade legally. The marketplace also introduces an obligation for dealers to provide their EA approval numbers when selling used auto parts.
eBay actively blocks merchant accounts when EA receives information about illegal business. The platform only hires traders again when the corresponding approval has been obtained, which can only be issued by the EA if traders meet certain criteria.
Charles Ambrose, Association Secretary at the Vehicle Recyclers Association said:
The VRA is delighted that the Environment Agency and eBay are working with the VRA to counter the scourge of unauthorized and illegal vehicle dismantling. This joint initiative to disrupt the profitable activities of garbage criminals is a great example of what can be achieved.
The preliminary results have been extremely encouraging and we hope that the recent pilot exercise can be expanded into an ongoing sustainable and effective disruption program.
The testing phase takes place amid broader EA efforts to tackle waste and metal crime. Last October, officials from the Environment Agency and the UK Transport Police held a week of action that stopped over 1,100 vehicles and visited 550 locations. Over 150 crimes have been detected and 29 arrests have been made.
Vehicle crushers may only be operated with an environmental permit and EA offers support with permit applications through its pre-application service. If you obtain vehicle parts from dismantled vehicles, you must use a source that has a permit for the pollution control and dismantling of old vehicles. Information on the regulations can be found here.
Customers who purchase end-of-life vehicle parts (ELV) from an unlicensed circuit breaker or source risk getting involved in criminal activity. You can check that the seller has an environmental authority permit to order