Devon & Somerset Trading Standards Service are warning of the possible dangers of buying a ‘bargain’ mattress.
The warning follows a 10 fold increase in reports of mattresses being sold from the ‘back of a van’ since 2014.
Complaints received by the service suggest that mattresses purchased from a man-in-a-van, which are often claimed to be part of a sale of ‘bankrupt stock’, are not always the bargain they initially appear to be.
The average reported sale price of such a mattress is £130. By inflating the RRP the seller gives the impression of a saving in excess of 70% to entice buyers.
Complaints received indicate that some mattresses don’t meet fire safety requirements and may even be second hand or recovered products.
The sellers often describe their stock as coming from warehouse clearances and ex-show homes – sometimes sellers claim that they need to get rid of stock as a result of failed deliveries in the local area.
Sellers can sound very convincing and Trading Standards advise consumers to be wary and independently verify the validity of any claims made, as well as checking the required fire safety labelling.
Evidence provided to this service indicates the great lengths that the sellers often go to in an effort to create the illusion that the mattresses are being sold by a genuine business. This includes issuing professional looking paperwork and driving liveried vehicles.
However often any paperwork provided to the buyer includes false or limited contact details which makes it almost impossible for a consumer to pursue their rights if things go wrong.
One mattress, purchased in South Molton from a man-in-a-van, was sent for fire safety testing by Trading Standards after the purchaser noticed it had a strange chemical smell.
The independent laboratory reported that the mattress failed the ‘match test’ – when a flame was applied it caught fire leading to what the laboratory described as ‘unsafe escalating combustion.’ Investigations into the identity of this seller and others are continuing.
Cllr David Hall, Somerset County Council’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member responsible for Trading Standards, said: “A new mattress or bed is a major investment and I would caution anyone against buying one from the back of a van. You could well lose money, and end up with a dangerous fire hazard.
“When you do decide it is time for a new bed, go to a reputable local business which has been recommended to you by family or friends or is a member of our Buy With Confidence scheme.
“Always check the mattress for the presence of a permanent blue fire safety label.”
Councillor Roger Croad, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for Trading Standards added: “Those who manufacture and sell unsafe mattresses are gambling with people’s lives. The “Regulations on fire safety for mattresses and soft furnishings are there to protect people in their homes including when they are asleep and at their most vulnerable. Trading Standards will proactively monitor these sales, gather intelligence and take robust action if persons are found selling unsafe products”.
To get advice on your rights, and to report a matter to Trading Standards, you can call citizens advice on 03454 040506. Advice on your rights and scams to avoid is also available at www.devonsomersettradingstandards.gov.uk
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