Retailers face claims over toxic substance in sofas

RETAIL giants Argos and Land of Leather could be faced with compensation claims as a result of selling sofas which contained a toxic substance that caused skin problems such as burns and allergies among some customers.

Up to 1,000 people are suing furniture stores such as Argos and Land of Leather in Britain over the Chinese-made sofas.

Argos confirmed that a number of the items sold in this country are also the subject of lawsuits.

Land of Leather confirmed that the sofas were sold in Ireland as well as Britain.

Withdrawn from sale last September after problems with a toxic substance in a sachet designed to prevent mould during transportation, the sofas were under the Pia and Bary brand-name and made in China by manufacturers Linkwise. The chemical contained in the sofa’s sachets, dimethyl fumarate (DMF), was reported to have caused skin problems such as itching, redness and blisters and several people had to receive hospital treatment after suffering adverse reactions, with dermatitis one of the extreme results.

In a statement to the Irish Examiner, Argos said the Linkwise sofas “were on sale in our stores in the Republic of Ireland during the same period as the rest of our stores in the UK”.

There were “a small number of reported cases” of health problems as a result of the sofas, according to the retail firm, who said they “cannot comment further since these are the subject of litigation”.

The chain said Linkwise sofas “are no longer on sale in any of our stores” in Ireland or Britain.

Land of Leather said that while the sofas were on sale in the company’s Irish outlets, they had been taken off the market last September after complaints were made about skin problems.

“Land of Leather stopped selling all products supplied by Linkwise in September 2007.”

Testing of the furniture removed from the affected customers’ homes revealed “nothing untoward”, according to the company, but they decided to voluntarily withdraw the sofas “as a precautionary measure”. After reports the skin problems may have been linked to the mould-inhibitor in the sachets, Land of Leather instructed its suppliers not to use this substance.

None of the retailer’s current stock contains the substance which has been linked to skin irritations.

They couldn’t comment on whether any Irish customers were taking legal action in relation to the controversial sofas.

Up to 30,000 of the sofas were sold at Land of Leather’s shops throughout Britain and Ireland. Argos has apologised to anyone who suffered skin irritations as a result of using the leather furniture.

In Britain, a Crown Court judge gave the go-ahead for a class action, allowing anyone with a claim against the furniture chains to become part of one case in an attempt to speed up the legal process.

Lawyers have estimated a total cost to the furniture sellers of up to €5 million in compensation claims.


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