It’s been going on for a number of years all over the country but the rogue traders selling dodgy mattresses from the back of vans show no signs of letting up. In fact, the chances are they’ll be coming to your area, stopping you in the street or knocking on your door, offering you a “quality memory foam mattress” at a bargain price.

They are extremely convincing, often driving a white or silver van with a company name sign-written on it and wearing a company polo shirt. Some even have company names that are very similar to well-known mattress brands or bed retailers. They may provide you with a written receipt and give you their business card. However, you may find that the phone numbers provided are unobtainable when you try calling them.

They usually spin a tale of having mattresses from a cancelled order that they don’t want to take back to the factory or they’re surplus stock or from a show-house or from a business that is closing down.

All very plausible and very tempting when they claim that the mattress should be £700 or £800 but to help them out you can buy it for a bargain price of a couple of hundred pounds or less. In many cases, the mattresses or the plastic bags covering them will have printed labels displaying recommended retail prices. Do not be fooled! Anyone can print labels and stick them on a product.

Of course, we all like a bargain and pride ourselves on how much money we believe we’ve saved when buying holidays, flights, fashion items and household goods. It’s human nature to brag to our friends and relatives that we’ve managed to get a better deal than they have. Haven’t we been clever buying an £800 mattress for just £150? Errr…..probably not!

The chances are that the double size mattress you’ve bought was manufactured for around £50 so if you pay the bargain price of £150 for it, they are still making a tidy profit. At best it will contain a new, 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. It almost certainly hasn’t undergone testing to see whether it meets the UK mattress flammability regulations. It may display the small blue, white and black label with an image of a cigarette and flame on it but again, it’s easy to buy the labels to fix to the mattress.

At worst, the mattress may contain an old, used spring unit along with dirty fillings. Some of the worst cases we’ve come across is where the rogue trader has simply placed an old mattress inside a brand-new cover and passed off the product as new!

The advice from the National Bed Federation is not to buy a mattress from these types of traders and to only buy from reputable retailers and internet companies that you’ve either heard of or can check customer reviews. Ask yourself whether any reputable business would be selling mattresses in this manner, using underhand techniques to persuade people in an opportune way?

If you are approached by a man in a van selling mattresses, politely decline and try to make a note of any details – a company name, phone number and ideally the registration number plate of the vehicle. Then report it to the Citizen’s Advice Consumer Service on 0345 40 40 506.

Finally, to be sure that the mattress you buy is everything it claims to be and is safe and clean, we recommend you buy one that is made by an approved National Bed Federation (NBF) member. NBF members have to undergo a strict, independent audit to ensure they have robust procedures in place to comply with all relevant UK legislation on the manufacture and supply of mattresses. Look for the ‘made by an approved NBF member’ logo on the product. If you’re in any doubt, you can check a list of NBF approved brands on the website or call the NBF on 01756 799950.

After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

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