‘Bargain’ mattresses warning

Retailers are losing £100m a year in sales while almost 300,000 consumers are putting their lives at risk by buying ‘back of the van’ mattresses.

Shoppers looking to save money are being exposed to unhygienic, second-hand mattresses; products containing banned materials; mattresses made up of very basic spring unit with a polyester fibre pad or a layer of cheap foam on top; old mattresses inside new covers and passed off as new and products not tested for flammability.

The number of consumers buying ‘back of the van’ mattresses has doubled in a year to 280,000 people according to NBF consumer research: 4% of those buying a mattress.

‘Mattresses bought from the “back of a van” can be extremely dangerous. It’s basically part of the shadow economy – traders flogging cheap, and often unsafe or reclaimed, mattresses door-to-door for cash. We’ve been told of rogue traders touring the country targeting neighbourhoods with so-called bargain mattresses at prices that claim to be a fraction of their normal price. The traders are very plausible, often saying that the mattresses are from cancelled orders, surplus stock, from shops that are closing down or from show homes – they are not,’ says Simon Williams, NBF head of marketing and membership. 

‘Unfortunately, our latest research backs up the anecdotal information we’ve been receiving in recent months that this activity is on the rise as fraudsters look to prey on the most vulnerable in society who are struggling the hardest under the burden of rising costs. We’ve also heard from retailers and recycling centres that they’ve seen an increase in requests from traders wanting to take old, used mattresses off them. We fear the cases we come across are only the tip of the iceberg with many of those scammed either blissfully unaware, or too embarrassed to complain – we estimate that around 280,000 mattresses a year may be being bought this way.’ 

‘We would advise consumers to consider carefully their purchasing decisions, and avoid buying goods from itinerant traders, and from the back of vans. The selling of apparent bargain luxury beds of a high specification, from the back of a lorry is often a sign of a rip off deal, where the consumer will struggle to trace the trader concerned and never get a refund if dissatisfied with the item,’ says David Strover, West Yorkshire Trading Standards trading standards manager – business service team.

‘It’s vital that consumers are vigilant and look out for these cheaply manufactured products which are at best a rip-off, and at worst, dangerous. To avoid being scammed by dodgy dealers, always buy from a reputable retailer, avoid online marketplaces where traceability is next to zero, and look for the NBF Approved label which gives consumers peace of mind that the product is safe, compliant and as described. With people estimated to spend one-third of their lives in bed, purchasing a comfortable, good quality mattress is an important investment and one which could make a huge difference to getting a good night’s sleep and to general wellbeing, so don’t take a risk and be tempted by apparently cheap options – if a “bargain” mattress seems too good to be true, it probably is,’ says Williams. 



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