0370 270 6000

already registered?

Please sign in with your existing account details.

need to register?

Register to access exclusive content, sign up to receive our updates and personalise your experience on brownejacobson.com.

Privacy statement - Terms and conditions

Forgotten your password?

Court announces £20 million payout in sofa litigation - how to protect against toxic damage to your brand?

30 April 2010

The ‘toxic sofas’ litigation has generated a large amount of negative publicity for the retailers (including Argos, Homebase, Walmsley Furnishing, and Land of Leather) who sold these sofas.

The sofas, which were manufactured in China, contained sachets of the antifungal chemical dimethyl fumarate (DMF), which was intended to stop the furniture from going mouldy during storage. However, when the sachets were broken this chemical vaporised, causing seeping skin rashes to the unfortunate sofa owners. DMF has since been included on the list of substances explicitly banned by the European Union (though it is in any event an offence to sell unsafe goods).

This has given rise to what is believed to be the largest consumer group litigation in British legal history. On 26 April, the High Court announced that up to £20 million could be paid out to consumers. More than 1,500 victims are expected to receive between £1,175 and £9,000 each. Resolution of around 3,000 more severe cases is still outstanding.

In recent months, we have seen a sharp rise in requests for advice on compliance with EU safety legislation. We are also being asked for practical advice about how to minimise the risk of adverse publicity arising from the sale of unsafe goods, in particular goods imported from China. EU statistics show that goods originating from China accounted in 2006 for 48% of reported product safety issues, and importers often encounter difficulties in holding manufacturers from outside the EU accountable for their products.

Some companies take up insurance cover against these risks, but insurance alone is not the answer. Insurance does not cover damage to your brand’s reputation, nor any fines resulting from selling unsafe goods. Such fines can be substantial – for instance, Toyota have recently received a $16.4 million fine for failing to notify the US authorities for four months about safety issues of which they were aware.

Reassurance against these risks can be found by having a robust scheme of supplier terms and conditions, plus specific written instructions, a detailed quality control and due diligence system in line with the correct standards, and a product recall policy in line with the recently updated EU guidance. We recommend that you review these matters now to avoid future damage.

Focus on...

Legal updates

Presenting a winding up petition to recover pandemic rent arrears

The government has now published new regulations to replace the winding up restrictions mentioned above from 1 October 2021. The key point of interest from a landlord and tenant perspective is that these new regulations will prevent a landlord from presenting a winding up petition to recover rent until 31 March 2022 where the sums are unpaid by the tenant because of the financial effect of the pandemic.


Legal updates

The government’s plans for dealing with Covid-19 rent arrears – some more details emerge

Last week, the government published a policy statement to deal with rent arrears accrued during the pandemic for those businesses affected by the pandemic.


Legal updates

Restrictions on landlords’ remedies extended again and extra protection to be given to certain businesses

The delay in the full easing of lockdown restrictions and the knock on effect for certain tenants (particularly those in the hospitality and entertainment industry) has clearly caused a change of heart and the government has now announced a further extension of the restrictions.


Legal updates

Commercial rents and Covid-19: Call for evidence

The government announced that it would be launching a call for evidence to help monitor the overall progress of negotiations between landlords and tenants for paying or writing off outstanding rents. This call for evidence has now been published.


The content on this page is provided for the purposes of general interest and information. It contains only brief summaries of aspects of the subject matter and does not provide comprehensive statements of the law. It does not constitute legal advice and does not provide a substitute for it.

Mailing list sign up

Select which mailings you would like to receive from us.

Sign up