The National Bed Federation (NBF) has revealed the results of the first round of its Due Diligence random testing programme – with NBF members faring far better than non-members.
Introduced in 2018 after an initial pilot, and now forming part of the NBF’s Code of Practice (which has received assured advice status from Primary Authority West Yorkshire Trading Standards), the Due Diligence programme was implemented to test the effectiveness of the NBF’s programme of factory audits with random purchases and to investigate allegations of non-compliance.
In the first round, 49 products were purchased – 24 from members and 25 from non-members. They were a mixture of mattresses, headboards, divan sets and upholstered bed frames. Each product was subject to relevant flammability tests, then cut open and their specifications checked against marketing claims.
In terms of flammability, 19 NBF member products passed with no issues, compared with just 14 from non-members. The remaining five NBF products were classed as borderline, with fail tests on mattresses not able to be repeated, while those on headboards had used compliant production materials along with test histories and evidence of purchasing the correct materials from suppliers.
All 11 failures from non-members were clear-cut and absolute, with issues such as match test failure on non-sleeping surface, fillings that failed the relevant tests and a contract mattress failing crib 5 testing.
"These significant flammability failures do raise concerns about the safety of those products on the market and we have of course reported these and all our findings to trading standards,” says Tristine Hargreaves, the NBF's technical manager in charge of the Due Diligence Programme.
All results – good and bad – were also shared with the companies involved, and in some cases via the retailer or online platform from which products were purchased.
On trade descriptions, major issues were identified with 11 non-members’ products, compared with just four from members. These ranged from overstating spring counts, claiming the presence of fillings materials that were not present at all and, in one case, evidence of a used spring unit where none was identified in labelling or marketing materials.
In several cases, there were multiple failings on flammability and trade descriptions. Where major (and some minor) issues were identified with members’ products, further investigations and site visits pointed to the reasons being mistakes rather than deliberate. Further checks and purchases will be made to ensure they are resolved. In some cases, the issues identified were due to incorrect product details being advertised by the retailer rather than the manufacturer.
Jessica Alexander, executive director of the NBF, says: “All along, our Code of Practice has been about reassuring customers that what they are buying from NBF members is safe, clean and honest. People can’t look inside a mattress to see what’s there, or set light to it to see if it burns – they have to take on trust what they are told. The Due Diligence Programme is a further check to try to ensure compliance beyond audit day is being met.
“It’s gratifying to see members performing so much better than non-members, particularly on safety issues, but there is still work to be done. We will continue to work with our members where improvements are needed and investigate further if we are led to believe there could be any issues with a member’s products. At the same time the audit process that underpins our Code of Practice becomes more demanding – this time around all audits are semi-unannounced, with any follow-up audits found necessary fully unannounced.”
The Due Diligence programme is ongoing, with a further 50 products being selected for random testing this year.