Is there any legislation to protect consumers with regard to the materials used in bedding and furniture?
It is difficult to give a clear answer to this question. The issue of legislation remains a battle for the sector, which tends towards cheaper materials instead of selecting the most suitable ones. There are still no specific and dedicated laws that protect the consumer with regards to the quality of materials, nor are the producer's responsibilities defined.
What guarantees can be given to the consumer?
When selling a mattress or a sofa, all the materials must be considered, from the structure to the foam and fabrics used.
Focusing on the foam, the minimum quality standards must be ensured, in order for the foam to maintain its characteristics (such as density, hardness, resilience, recovery) over time. This time is defined, ideally, as 10 years. However, the safest indication is the legal guarantee which ensures that sellers cover the first 2 years of that product in the general consumer protection law.
Consumer rights state that, the quality of goods and services must be fit for the purposes for which they are intended and produce the effects attributed to them.
In fact, there is no law that protects the consumer and effectively guarantees that the foam characteristics in a mattress or a sofa are those claimed by the seller or, more importantly, are best suited for the product.
Moreover, the foam may be within the desired quality parameters, but the fabrics used may not be the most suitable or hinder the characteristics and advantages of the foam. If the materials do not complement each other, the product does not work. For example, a company sells a mattress with Coolflow foam, promoting breathability characteristics, but uses a fabric that does not allow air circulation. The added value of the technology is blocked by the material covering the foam.
The same applies to a sofa, whose foam may collapse after a short period of use. Should the foam producer be the only responsible? Or did the sofa producer choose a foam with unsuitable characteristics for the product? If the foam is not suitable for the product, no matter how good it is, it will collapse over time. In this case, the foam producer cannot be held liable as he supplied a material that is compliant but not suitable for the product it was intended for. The foam producer should advise the sofa producer on the most suitable composition for his products although it is up to the buyer to follow these suggestions.
In the absence of a set of standards for the construction of bedding and furniture products, it will be very difficult to create a law that covers the various particularities of this industry and protects the consumer.
Most bedding and furniture sellers end up making very similar proposals regarding the warranty of their products. They also suffer from the pressures and demands of the market that force them to squeeze prices and present proposals that may not be the most adequate to the expectations of the final customer. Although it is seductive to engage in this practice, the non-durability of the products will end up having consequences for both parties. When the customer loses confidence, it is very difficult to win him back.
What we do know is that the sector should be regulated. First-line suppliers should have guidelines on the sale of materials in line with their use, as a guarantee that good products will be created. Despite their absence, Eurospuma seeks to apply a set of best practices in the sale of foam and nonwovens to its customers, considering their purpose and use.
Ultimately, the regulation should be applied to the product as a whole (the sofa or mattress) and not only to the materials that compose it. But to do this, each supplier should be required to provide a "minimum quality guarantee". How can we do this? This is an issue that should be debated by the various stakeholders.