Lighter manufacturers ask for more CPSC regulation

by Ted Frank on November 30, 2006

Why?

[David H. Baker, the Lighter Association's general counsel] said association members want mandatory standards to help reduce their legal liability. He explained that members often get sued for fires resulting from malfunctioning lighters. In many cases, he said, the lighter was destroyed in the fire, so there’s no proof of who made the lighter. But the easiest targets are the well-known brands such as Bic, Scripto and Swedish Match — companies that are members of the association, Baker explained.

Chinese off-brand import lighters are only 30% likely to meet voluntary industry safety standards, and manufacturers are not just facing the cheaper competition from the imports, but apparently also having to swallow liability from accidents caused by the more dangerous imports.

{ 7 comments }

1 Stephen Macklin 11.30.06 at 1:15 pm

I work for one of those well known brands, and the problem is worse than that. Even in cases where the lighter that caused an accident is destroyed and is identifiable – we get sued. We get these suits dismissed fairly easily but not without the cost of time and money. We have to identify the lighter as not one of ours, and someone in the legal department has to respond.

What is harder to document is the effect being a target has on the culture of the company. Sometimes we are so “inside the box” we don’t even know where the edges are!

2 Joe in Australia 11.30.06 at 5:08 pm

The lighters have metal parts and I presume that they don’t get destroyed in most fires. Why not make them from a more distinctive alloy, or at least incorporate a strip of such an alloy within the design?

[This would be fruitless; fire companies wouldn't be expected to scrutinize the ruins of a burnt home for a tiny strip of metal, and the absence of that strip of metal after the lawsuit is brought wouldn't be determinative if the plaintiff is willing to testify he bought a Bic. -- TF]

3 Peter 11.30.06 at 9:35 pm

That’s it! Ban all lighters! People now have to forage for their own flint chunks and dry grass. Those are made by God, and you can’t sue Him.

Or can you…

4 William Nuesslein 12.01.06 at 8:36 am

Suppose two manufactuers: One makes a very safe lighter for $1 each, the other makes a measurably more dangerous lighter for $.75. The automobile market has shown in the past that consumers do not value safety, only law will allow the safe lighter to be marketable.

This is the main reason automobiles are regulated. But we have a real problem with our rule of law in that liability persists when standards are met.

5 panthan 12.01.06 at 3:29 pm


The automobile market has shown in the past that consumers do not value safety

I would be interested in references to back up this statement.

I was under the impression that one of the big selling points of SUVs was the impression that they are safer than sedans. They are certainly more expensive (and at least some years ago had vastly higher profit margins) than small cars.

One also has to assume that Volvo has some reason to be pushing safety so hard in their ads.

6 Ted 12.01.06 at 3:41 pm

William’s statement about consumer demand for safety in the auto industry may have made sense 30-40 years ago, but I don’t think it’s true in today’s market.

7 Jim Collins 12.02.06 at 7:37 am

“The automobile market has shown in the past that consumers do not value safety”

I think that is is more a matter of inconvience than safety. Some may be actually isulted by some safety features.

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