Fraudulently sold mattresses costing Yorkshire bed manufacturers over £40m annually

A poor quality ‘van scam’ mattress

With over 40% of the UK’s beds and mattresses manufactured in Yorkshire and the Humber, the region’s economy is being hit hard by rocketing levels of illegitimate trading across the UK, with sales of substandard mattresses reaching a new high.

Research from the National Bed Federation (NBF), which has its national headquarters in Skipton, North Yorkshire, has revealed that every year up to 280,000 unsuspecting UK consumers are buying a mattress which may not be what it claims from a doorstep or ‘back of the van’ trader. This number has doubled in the last six months as consumers try to cut spending under the pressure of the cost of living crisis.

The growing fraud is estimated to be costing the UK bed and mattress industry around £100m per annum, and Yorkshire and the Humber manufacturers are bearing the brunt of this cost as almost half of the industry’s reputable businesses are based in the region. The NBF is warning consumers that not only is buying a mattress in this way a false economy, as they are not the quality or brand of product they are labelled to be, but they may actually be unhygienic, second-hand mattresses or even unsafe due to the use of banned materials.

Simon Williams from the National Bed Federation said: “Often, mattresses not purchased through a reputable retailer are cheaply manufactured products that are likely to be worth less than £100 – they may contain a very basic spring unit with a polyester fibre pad or a layer of cheap foam over it, all covered in a cheap outer covering material. What’s more, some of these products are actually dangerous as they almost certainly won’t have undergone testing to ensure they meet UK mattress flammability regulations that reduce the chance of fires in homes.

“At worst, the mattress may contain an old, used spring unit along with dirty fillings, and the NBF has even come across cases where rogue traders have simply placed old mattresses inside brand-new covers and passed off the products as new.”

The most recent consumer mattress buying surveys undertaken by the NBF, covering 1,000 people who had bought a mattress in the previous six months, showed that in October 2022, an alarming 4% reported buying their mattress from a doorstep or ‘back of the van’ trader whereas the previous survey a year earlier put the figure at just 2%.

Mr Williams added: “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.”

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