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Guest JulieAub

Can I sell a chair without fire safety label on ebay?

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Guest Emily

Hi Tom,

I'm impressed by the help you have given people and your careful consideration of the issues.

I was on the point of buying some retro 1960s furniture made in East Germany when the fire safety issues occurred to me. It seems there are plenty of online sites (including Etsy) which are market places for businesses to sell these things to individuals. Surely there is a legal problem with this. There are no warning about it and people don't seem to know much about that aspect of what they are selling. Some re-upholster in modern, safer materials. Many don't. It is good that people are re-using old furniture but I am now nervous about buying/using such things in my home. Do you have any views or knowledge about this form or business?

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If they are selling to joe public then they are in breach of FFFSR and so are re-upholsterers as they are subject to the regulations.

I think the problem is the regulation which are poorly drafted and difficult to understand by the lay person. They have revised them and produced a draft copy, but that's it, they have not progressed any further. Also I think the enforcement is poor as the Trading Standards is not proactive and adopt a reactive approach. I believe the Amazon was selling upholstered furniture from Germany which did not meet the Regulations but they claimed that they where only agents and not retailer or importer, which was not progressed with.

I think it is up to the individual to insist on furnished furniture complying with the regulations, however I have recently bought sofa and when I talked to the salesperson he agreed that all upholded furniture has to meet the regulations. He also said most people are more interested on the price and not fire safety.

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The Furniture Regulations are ineffective and frankly in a mess. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (yes, I know: what is the department for business doing looking after safety laws which, to put right, would cost businesses money) revealed in 2014 that they do not even work and proposed changes that would. But industry intervened and BEIS officials (all but one) went along with delaying the changes. They re-proposed some of them in 2016 after pressure from the press but have been sitting on a response to the consultation ever since. 

Essentially, this is the (messy) situation: the Furniture Regulations apply to suppliers based in the UK, not consumers. Any retailer, therefore, based in the UK must sell products that comply with the regulations. A consumer is free to buy furniture from anywhere outside the UK, because they are not a supplier. They cannot, however, then sell on or give away the product because that makes them a supplier. Internet sellers have greatly obscured this situation. As Tom says, Amazon was and is selling non-compliant furniture from suppliers outside the UK. When challenged about this by Trading Standards, Amazon claimed it is not a supplier; it's just an agent. Trading Standards sought legal counsel which disagreed - confirming that because the consumer pays Amazon, gets a receipt from them and complains to them when things go wrong, it is a supplier. Amazon removed the particular product from sale but did not agree that it is a supplier. It is perhaps a measure of how incompetent government is that nothing has been done about this four years or so on.

As for BEIS, a couple of us managed to get a meeting with the lead official on these Regulations in May this year (mind you, that took a year and a complaint to the Minister to achieve). This person insisted that they are working hard on the necessary changes. However, she did not know that the Regulations are based on British Standards and did not know what an interliner is, even though a proposal for interliners is in their 2016 consultation that she is apparently working so hard on. I can guarantee that she is completely unaware of the issue of internet sellers.



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