BIC announces today that it has filed an infringement complaint with the European Commission for lack of surveillance of non‐compliant Lighters in France and Germany. The complaint concerns non‐compliant Lighters that are either imported or sold on these domestic markets, impacting the entire European Union due to the free movement of goods.
The seriousness of this issue has been broadly acknowledged by the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Highest French Courts, and the relevant NGOs.
In 2006, the European Commission introduced “emergency legislation” requiring that Member States monitor and ensure that all Lighters imported or sold in their markets comply with safety standards (ISO9994, EN138691) and prohibit novelty Lighters. In 2010 infringement proceedings were brought against the Netherlands for lack of surveillance of the lighter market, which remains on‐going. In 2016, in France, the Highest Court (Cour de Cassation) recognized that lighter models being marketed by the leading French lighter importer were non‐compliant.
It is the responsibility of Member States to perform mandatory controls of consumer products and to take effective measures to protect European consumers by ensuring that only safe Lighters are marketed, imported and sold.
According to François Clément‐Grandcourt, Head of BIC Lighter Category: “A lighter is a plastic reservoir filled with pressurized gas that is ignited with a spark to produce a flame. The danger is very real if the lighter is not designed or manufactured properly. The consequences can be severe. Although repeatedly notified by BIC over the past ten years, France and Germany have failed to take the appropriate action that would prevent the marketing of non‐compliant Lighters to the public. Year after year, the lighter issue has become emblematic of the lack of market surveillance in Europe. Nevertheless, solutions do exist to prevent the circulation of dangerous Lighters within the European market. Member-States, for example, could be obligated to carry out effective product surveillance on products entering and circulating within the European Union, with infringements sanctioned in a dissuasive manner.”
73% of the lighter models available in Europe do not comply with ISO 9994 Safety Standards, which represent a real danger for consumers.
The failure of customs control at the ports of entry to the European Union, particularly in Hamburg (the N°1 port of entry in the European Union for Lighters), coupled with a lack of surveillance on the domestic market, mean that many non‐compliant Lighters models are currently available on the European market, particularly in Germany and in France.
It is estimated that:
- 86% of the lighter models sold in France and in Germany do not comply with the ISO 9994 International Safety Standard. This Standard clearly defines the basic safety requirements for pocket Lighters, such as maximum flame height, drop resistance, resistance to high temperatures, internal pressure, and continuous burn.
- 97% of the electronic lighter models available in Europe do not comply with the EN 13869 Standard, which requires all pocket Lighters sold within the EU to be effectively child‐resistant throughout a lighter’s shelf‐life.
- Novelty pocket Lighters, outlawed in 2008, remain freely available for sale in these countries, with apparent impunity.
Lighters are the cause of almost 30.0005 severe accidents per year in the European Union, which costs around one billion euros annually.
The link between lighter‐related accidents and non‐compliance with Safety Standards has been proven in numerous studies conducted by manufacturers, Institution, and Government. For example, strict enforcement of child Safety regulations in the United States has cut the number of fires, accidents, fatalities and societal costs of accidents involving children playing with lighters by two‐thirds.
Two 2018’s studies have revealed that:
- 75% of accidents with a lighter was caused by an issue addressed by the ISO 9994 Safety Standard requirements. Examples: in 36% of cases, the lighter exploded; in 32% of cases, the flame did not extinguish; and in 16% of cases, the lighter spluttered gas inflamed droplets
- 13% of accidents resulted from children playing with lighters.
- 80% of accidents with a lighter was caused by an issue addressed by the ISO 9994 Safety Standard requirements. Examples: in 32% of cases, the lighter exploded; in 30% of cases, the flame did not extinguish; and in 21% of cases, the lighter spluttered gas inflamed droplets.
- 10% of accidents resulted from children playing with Lighters.
These studies confirm the findings of an earlier study conducted in 20118 in 9 European‐Union Member States which revealed that 79% accidents with a lighter in Europe were caused by an issue addressed by the ISO 9994 Safety Standard and 7% resulted from children playing with Lighters.
For Gonzalve Bich, Chief Executive Officer of BIC, ” Too many potentially dangerous Lighters are available for sale in the European market. While the issue has been resolved in many countries around the world, the lack of effective market surveillance in Europe poses a real threat to consumer safety and is a cause for concern. Since day one, BIC has made the quality and safety of its Lighters an absolute priority. By initiating these new proceedings with the European Union, BIC is acting in the interest of all consumers and is committed to assisting those in pursuit of genuine consumer protection.”