In yesterday's BBC consumer affairs programme, Fake Britain, several leading furniture and bed retailers were involved in an investigation into product compliance with the UK's stringent fire safety regulations for furniture. Products bought from furniture chains including Harveys, SCS, Argos and Homebase, as well as online from Amazon and Tesco Direct, failed to meet these standards, and were therefore shown as illegal.
The inquest started after a West Yorkshire resident's complaint about sofas she had bought from furniture supplier iSleep, which is no longer in trading. In buying and testing products from the retailer, Trading Standards found them to be in breach of the UK’s fire safety regulations for flammability. Fake Britain then went on to investigate the issue further among well known national firms, partnering up with Trading Standards.
Leicestershire Trading Standards bought 10 sofas from a variety of national high street chains and independents, and eight of the ten products failed part of the fire regulations. The programme showed the tests of products from ScS and Harveys but did not mention where the other six non-compliant products had been bought.
Mattresses were also investigated, with products from Ventura Corporation – owner of the Sleep Secrets brand – tested after being bought from the websites of Argos, Homebase, Tesco Direct and Amazon. All products bought failed the fire regulations when tested at FIRA's Stevenage-based testing facility. Ventura remarked that it has issued a product recall and its own investigation.
Responses from all of the retailers and suppliers apart from iSleep featured in the programme.
FIRA issued the following statement about its involvement in the programme:
In November 2013, FIRA International’s testing facility was contacted by Screen Channel Television, a production company working on behalf of the BBC, to request that a FIRA expert carry out flammability test for domestic use on a mattress. This was to be a ‘blind test’ with the origin of the mattress not known at the time of testing. This test was being carried out as part of an investigation for the programme, Fake Britain. Steve Cotton, FIRA’s technical specialist for flammability, provided a commentary and carried out the testing whilst being filmed for the programme.
Following the first flammability test, the production company contacted FIRA again to request that the same blind testing be carried out on another four mattresses and a commentary provided. The filming dates took place at the end of November and late December.
Fake Britain can be viewed or downloaded directly from the BBC website.