Law & Order


The Department of Justice and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) settled a case with a company that had been accused of selling electronic devices that allowed cars to emit excessive levels of pollution in violation of the Clean Air Act. The products are known as oxygen sensor simulators (O2 Sims) and signal to the engine computer that the automobile is functioning properly even when the catalytic converter is missing or disabled. These types of products are known as "defeat devices" and are potentially illegal under subsection (B) of 42 USC Sec. 7522 (1990 Clean Air Act Amendments), which states:
"(B) for any person to manufacture or sell, or offer to sell, or install, any part or component intended for use with, or as part of, any motor vehicle or motor-vehicle engine, where a principle effect of the part or component is to bypass, defeat, or render inoperative any device or element of design installed on or in a motor vehicle or motor vehicle engine in compliance with regulations under this subchapter, and where the person knows or should know that such part or component is being offered for sale or installed for such use or put to such use;"

The company had sold an estimated 44,000 units since 2001 and will pay more than $74,000 in civil penalties. It is also required to undertake a buy-back program. The EPA estimates that the O2 Sims sold had the potential to allow emissions equivalent to half a million vehicles with fully operational emissions control systems over their lifetimes.

For additional information: