The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld a complaint made regarding three Oak Furniture Land adverts, aired in May 2016:
The use of the phrase "No veneer in 'ere" was questioned by AJ Proctor Builders Ltd, which understood that some of the advertiser’s furniture was made using an oak wrap technique, and challenged whether the claims that the advertiser's products were made from solid hardwood and did not contain any veneer were misleading.
Oak Furniture Land responded that it believed consumers would understand the term “no veneer” to mean that its products did not contain a thin layer of hardwood surrounding a cheaper or less desirable material such as chipboard or medium density fibreboard (MDF). It said the claims were based on a historical industry-wide application of the term.
The retailer said that there was no British or European standard for “solid hardwood”, and believed that the term would be understood by the average consumer to mean that the products in question contained nothing other than hardwood, and that the “oak wrap” technique referenced by the complainant was an industry-recognised cabinetry technique for joining pieces of solid hardwood together. It clarified that it was only used on its furniture legs, and provided evidence which indicated that it was not used on table tops, describing the composition as “solid oak, with solid oak wrapped around it”, and emphasised that the wrap did not hide a cheaper or less desirable material, which was, by definition, what veneer meant.
ASA acknowledged that the furniture was exclusively made from hardwood but, because it considered the furniture’s construction to be inconsistent with likely consumer expectation of solid hardwood items made without veneer, concluded that the claims “solid hardwood”, “100% solid hardwood” and “no veneer” were misleading.
Oak Furniture Land was told not to state or imply that products had “no veneer” or were made from “solid hardwood” if they were manufactured using the “oak wrap” technique or other similar techniques.
Read the full ruling here.
Oak Furniture Land MD and founder Jason Bannister responds: "We are baffled and surprised by the ASA’s adjudication, and we vigorously stand by our claims that we do not and never have used veneers in our products and that we only sell 100% solid hardwood.
"We feel the ASA have misinterpreted age-old definitions of firstly, what is classed as solid and secondly, what is classed as a veneer.
"In order to aid the ASA in adjudicating on a matter raised by only one customer, we actioned an independent survey of 2000 customers asking about their understanding of the word “solid”. The ASA also consulted a panel of industry experts, and finally the ASA’s own advisory panel.
"The findings of the customers, industry experts and the ASA’s own advisory panel all concluded that our methods should be classed as solid, and they confirmed that we do not use veneers. However, the ASA have overlooked this advice and have effectively redefined the category.
"The ASA have claimed that any timber that is not one piece, fully intact and from a single tree should no longer be classed as solid. Take a look at most table tops, worktops, flooring and doors that are currently classed as solid. You will see that they are normally made up of planks of solid timber, usually glued together. These panels are then used to make furniture. The ASA have told us that these panels should not be classed as solid, effectively redefining terminology that has been used as “solid” for hundreds of years.
"Next, when referring to one of our dining table legs, the ASA have deemed that using a thinner, yet weight-bearing oak, surrounding a planked oak mentioned above, is classed as a veneer. We firmly disagree with this stance from the ASA.
"Alongside a myriad of experts and customers, our belief is that the definition of a veneer is a thin sliver of real wood lifted from solid timbers. This sliver is usually glued over the top of MDF or chipboard and does not offer any kind of strength-bearing to the product itself – it is simply a cosmetic covering. This is not a method we use at Oak Furniture Land. The timbers the ASA have deemed as veneer are weight-bearing timbers, integral to the structure of the table leg.
"At this stage we have launched an appeal to this decision by the ASA in the hope that common sense will prevail. We would like to reiterate that a panel of accredited industry experts, thousands of customers and even the ASA’s own advisory panel are in agreement that we do not sell veneers and that our products are 100% solid."