By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) -The U.S. government on Wednesday sued eBay, accusing the online platform of violating the Clean Air Act and other environmental laws by allowing the sale of several harmful products, including devices that defeat automobile pollution controls.

EBay could face billions of dollars in penalties, including up to $5,580 for each Clean Air Act violation, according to the government’s complaint filed in the federal court in Brooklyn, New York.

The Department of Justice said eBay illegally allowed the sale of at least 343,011 aftermarket “defeat” devices that help vehicles generate more power and get better fuel economy by evading emissions controls.

EBay was also accused of allowing the sale of at least 23,000 unregistered, misbranded or restricted-use pesticides, violating a 2020 “stop sale” order from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The San Jose, California-based company also allegedly distributed 5,614 paint and coating removal products containing methylene chloride, a potentially lethal chemical linked to brain and liver cancer and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

“EBay has the power, the authority, and the resources to stop the sale of these illegal, harmful products on its website,” the complaint said. “It has chosen not to; instead, it has chosen to engage in these illegal transactions.”

In a statement, eBay called the lawsuit “entirely unprecedented” and said it would defend itself vigorously.

“Maintaining a safe and trusted marketplace for our global community of sellers and buyers is a fundamental principle of our business,” it said. “Indeed, eBay is blocking and removing more than 99.9% of the listings for the products cited by the DOJ, including millions of listings each year.”

EBay shares were down 1.6% at $42.79 in late morning trading.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Sharon Singleton and Bill Berkro)