MARSEILLE - A French appeals court on Thursday found German safety standards body TUV had "fulfilled its obligations" in certifying breast implants that were found to be faulty and sparked a worldwide scare.
The ruling overturns a decision by a lower French court in 2013 which had found the body liable and ordered the company to pay millions of euros in compensation to distributors and victims.
TUV certified that implants made by French firm Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) conformed to safety rules - even though they were subsequently found to contain substandard, industrial-grade silicone gel.
The body has maintained it was never its job to check the actual implants, and their task was only to inspect the manufacturing process.
The appeals court in the southern city of Toulon found that TUV and its French subsidiary had "fulfilled the obligations incumbent upon them as a certifying body (and) committed no error engaging their criminal responsiblity." The scandal first emerged in 2010 after doctors noticed abnormally high rupture rates in PIP implants and gathered steam worldwide in 2011, with some 300,000 women in 65 countries believed to have received the faulty implants.
Six distributors of the implants from Bulgaria, Brazil, Italy, Syria, Mexico and Romania and nearly 1,700 women - most of them from South America but also from France and Britain - sued TUV.
The lower French court ordered the German body to compensate the women 3,000 euros (S$4,492) each while waiting for individual medical or financial assessments to be conducted on each plaintiff and TUV paid out a total of 5.8 million euros.
"They will technically have to pay back this money but no decision has been taken on a request for reimbursement," said a source close to the safety body.