Assured Advice 28: Sale of upholstered furniture at auction

What are the specific safety requirements for selling upholstered furniture at auction?

Woman sat of a green sofa

This Primary Authority Advice has been produced by Warwickshire County Council Trading Standards Service, in partnership with The Property Ombudsman and Propertymark, for use by member businesses as an aid to complying with the law. If you follow this advice correctly, your local Trading Standards Service should respect this and not ask you to comply with the law in a different way. If you are contacted by a local authority enforcement body, please inform them that you are a member of the scheme.

Assured advice issued:

Broadly, the rules relating to the safety of upholstered furniture intended for domestic use supplied in the course of a business, such as via an auction, are the same as those for such furniture that is supplied by retail.

Further detail on these requirements can be found in the relevant guides on the Business Companion website, but auctioneers should at least take the following precautions.

The Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988 (FFR) do not apply to:

  •  furniture made before 1 January 1950;
  • materials for upholstery of furniture made before 1 January 1950;
  • goods for export.

Upholstered furniture should have a permanent label headed ‘CARELESSNESS CAUSES FIRE’. Usually these are sewn or stapled to the base. Mattresses and bed bases do not need this label, but should instead bear a label stating compliance with British Standard BS 7177, which is the specification for resistance to ignition of mattresses, mattress pads, divans and bed bases.

In addition to the specific rules on flammability, furniture must be safe in all other respects - for example, free from sharp edges and splinters. Therefore each piece should be examined carefully before being accepted for auction.

If any of these labels are missing from a product, it is possible that the furniture may not be compliant with the Regulations. We would advise that unlabelled furniture, not falling within the above exemptions, is not put up for auction.

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Download the full version of this advice to see what legislation and guidance Warwickshire County Council Trading Standards Service considered before providing this advice.