Fires caused by children playing with novelty lighters costs lives, but Google and ebay continue to allow these items to be advertised on their web sites.

Since March 11th 2008 retailers have been prohibited from selling novelty lighters. Novelty lighters are defined as being appealing to children in terms of their shape e.g. toys, or because of sound or lights, or other entertaining features.

According to research carried out by the UK Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform there was an average of 5 deaths every year between 1999 and 2003 caused by children under the age of nine playing with lighters.

Although ebay and Google are not supplying these items directly to consumers, they are promoting their sale with ebay profiting from commission and Google from advertising revenue on its search pages.

Google Search – Novelty LightersCached Image (27.04.09)
Google Product Search – Novelty LightersCached Image (27.04.09)
Ebay Search – Novelty LighterCached Image (27.04.09)

According to Google’s advertising standards, users of their advertising system, Adwords, are not allowed to advertise products that contravene applicable laws and regulations in any country in which the ads are displayed. And Google shop search users must not upload products or information promoting illegal goods.

Ebay provides guidance to sellers and lists prohibited goods, but this currently excludes novelty lighters. This comes shortly after ebay attracted criticism over the sale of knives and other dangerous and counterfeit items such as Nintendo DS’s.

Organisations with the financial resources and brand profile of ebay and Google have a social responsibility to set a good example and proactively prevent the sale of dangerous and illegal products such as novelty lighters.

These novelty lighters attract children and have been directly linked to deaths and injuries. What Consumer hopes that both Google and ebay can move swiftly to remove these items from their respective systems.