In August's issue of Furniture News, the NBF’s executive director Jessica Alexander talked about trust, and focused on how the internet appears to enable rogue traders to operate with ease – and little concern about being caught. “Truth and honesty are largely ignored and widely flouted,” she commented.

Looking specifically at the market for beds and mattresses in the UK, it is clear that it’s not just the internet where unscrupulous manufacturers and sellers operate – although online is their main channel, allowing them a greater degree of anonymity. 

The NBF receives many reports from consumers who have been duped into buying a mattress from ‘a man in a van’. And they know that it’s only the tip of the iceberg – most people are either too embarrassed to report that they’ve been scammed, or are blissfully unaware.

The usual scenario is a consumer being approached outside their house – or even in a local shop – by someone offering them a mattress that is part of a cancelled showhouse order, or bankrupt stock from a bed shop. The consumer is told by the very convincing salesman that the mattress in question should be about £800, but that they’ll accept £150-200. It even has a label on it showing RRPs to prove how much it’s worth! 

If the consumer was thinking about buying a new mattress in the near future anyway – bingo! It’s a bargain that is just too good to be missed. The reality is that they end up with a mattress that, inside its cover, bears very little resemblance to the claims on the label.

The NBF reports all its findings to the relevant authorities, but, due to a chronic lack of funding, little or no action is taken. Also, trying to establish exactly which mattress manufacturers are supplying these van scam merchants isn’t easy.  

By working with its members to improve standards through its Code of Practice and reputable bed retailers to promote why consumers should look for NBF-approved brands, let’s hope rogue traders are put to bed once and for all.   

Simon Williams is the marketing manager of the National Bed Federation (NBF).