Federal Settlement Targets Illegal Emission Control 'Defeat Devices' Sold for Autos

Company Will Pay Penalties and Recall Devices

Jul 10, 2007, 01:00 ET from U.S. Department of Justice

    WASHINGTON, July 10 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Department of
 Justice and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today a
 landmark settlement requiring Casper's Electronics, of Mundelein, Ill., to
 pay a penalty and stop selling devices that allow cars to release excess
 levels of pollution into the environment, in violation of the Clean Air Act
     Today's settlement, the first of its kind, requires Casper's to stop
 selling electronic devices -- known as oxygen sensor simulators or "O2
 Sims," -- recall the devices, and pay more than $74,000 in civil penalties
 to the United States. An O2 Sim tricks an automobile engine's computer into
 sensing a properly functioning emission control system, even when the
 catalytic converter is missing or faulty. These "after-market" sensors are
 considered illegal "defeat devices" under the federal CAA.
     Casper's has sold approximately 44,000 defeat devices through retailers
 and from its Web site since 2001. The EPA estimates that the increased
 emissions from installation of these devices over the life of the vehicles
 are 7,400 tons of hydrocarbons, 347,000 tons of carbon monoxide, and 6,000
 tons of nitrogen oxides. This is equivalent to the emissions produced by a
 half- million cars with fully operational emission control systems over
 their lifetimes.
     "Emission control defeat devices, like those used here, risk harming
 human health and the environment by allowing huge increases in pollutants
 from motor vehicles," said Ronald J. Tenpas, Acting Assistant Attorney
 General for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources
 Division. "The Justice Department will continue to vigorously enforce all
 of the provisions of the Clean Air Act -- including its rule against these
 devices -- against violators, including those using the Internet to
 illegally sell their wares."
     "Reliable and effective automobile pollution control systems are
 essential to protect human health and the environment from harmful
 automobile emissions," said Granta Nakayama, the EPA's Assistant
 Administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance. "Casper's sale of
 the oxygen sensor simulator defeat devices over a multi-year period is a
 serious violation because it facilitated the removal or malfunctioning of
 motor vehicle catalytic converters, which are the primary emission controls
 devices to prevent excessive pollution from cars and trucks."
     An oxygen sensor simulator sends a false electronic signal to the car's
 engine control computer, preventing the "check engine" or "malfunction
 indicator" light from illuminating. The malfunction light, part of a
 vehicle's on-board diagnostic (OBD) system, alerts the driver when there is
 a problem with the emission control system.
     Casper's O2 Sims allowed vehicle owners to remove or disable the
 catalytic converter without the OBD system detecting the problem and
 turning on the check engine light. The CAA prohibits the manufacture and
 sale of any devices, such as Casper's O2 Sims, that bypass or defeat
 required pollution control equipment on motor vehicles. Cars and trucks
 with defeat devices can emit up to 50 times the amount of harmful pollution
 emitted by vehicles with properly functioning emission controls.
     The EPA is currently investigating other automobile parts manufacturers
 and sellers that may also be making and selling similar products. EPA has
 found that some companies are advertising O2 Sims and other defeat devices
 as a way to enhance a car's performance. In addition, some companies
 include in their advertisements a claim that the devices are for "off-road
 use only," despite clearly marketing the devices for on-road vehicles.
     Air emissions from cars include harmful pollutants such as non-methane
 hydrocarbons and oxides of nitrogen, key ingredients in the production of
 ozone, a major component of urban smog. Tailpipe emissions also include
 carbon monoxide, which impairs breathing. Both ozone and carbon monoxide
 are especially harmful to children, people with asthma and the elderly.
     The recall required by the settlement requires Casper's to implement a
 mandatory repurchase program under which it must notify its customers that
 Casper's will buy back any O2 Sims sold by Casper's or its distributors,
 and create and implement a reporting system to ensure future compliance.
     Both the complaint and the consent decree were filed today in the U.S.
 District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division.
     The consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period and
 subsequent court approval, and is available for viewing at the Justice
 Department Web site http://usdoj.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.

SOURCE U.S. Department of Justice