When Australia’s largest consumer group saw Ikea leather sofas described as ‘durable coated fabric that has the same look and feel as leather’, they knew something wasn’t right. Here’s Matt Levey from CHOICE on how they took Ikea to task.
A visit to Ikea is the true test of any relationship. You can spend hours debating the differences between a Fargrik and Smord, or whether you really need that sophisticated print of the Manhattan skyline, tensions rising as you navigate a maze of idealised living spaces.
It’s one of those harrowing experiences where time seems to stand still, appreciated equally by consumers in the UK and Australia – much like an episode of Neighbours:
Given these risks, it’s a good idea to do your homework in advance and visit Ikea’s website before venturing into the showroom. But until recently, that came with its own problems, especially if you were, say, trying to find a leather sofa at a reasonable price.
Ikea’s ‘leather’ sofas
Earlier this year, here at CHOICE we noticed something very odd about the ‘leather furniture’ section of Ikea’s website. It was in fact home to quite a few non-bovine bits of furniture, more like polyester and polyurethane.
The giveaway was in the ‘product information’ tab on the websites, with one model described as ‘durable coated fabric that has the same look and feel as leather’. To make it more confusing, some of the ‘leather’ sofas simply had leather on the ‘contact areas’ – as in, the bits where you sit – yet were listed along with fabric sofas in the ‘leather’ section.
We thought this showed plenty of hide, so in October, we gifted Ikea one of CHOICE’s infamous Shonky awards – our annual celebration of Australia’s most outrageous consumer cons.
Ikea makes amends
In response, the iconic Swedish furniture store fixed its website, making it clear to consumers exactly what they are coming in store to buy.
Meanwhile, we noticed the same creative interpretations of ‘leather’ appearing on Ikea’s UK site. Our friends at Which? contacted the retailer, who have now responded through Donna More, Ikea UK and Ireland Customer Relations Manager:
‘At Ikea we believe in being open and transparent about the composition of our products. We recognised that our product category descriptions on our website weren’t as clear as we would like regarding leather and fabric-coated sofas and recently took steps to clarify this. Unfortunately these changes haven’t appeared on the UK version of our website and we would like to apologise to customers for this delay. We are aiming to resolve this as soon as possible and would like to thank Which? for bringing it to our attention.
‘Customers can find detailed information about the materials of all of our products within the product description on every individual product page of our website, as well as our in-store communication. If any customers are unhappy with their purchases, they are of course welcome to return their products for a full refund.’
Thankfully consumers in both the UK and Australia can now venture into Ikea with a little more confidence, safe in the knowledge they won’t spend half their Saturday looking for a Norsborg instead of a Landskrona. But as for actually assembling the thing, I’m afraid you’re still on your own.
Have you ever spotted any creative online product descriptions that didn’t add up?
This is a guest contribution by Matt Levey, Director of Campaigns and Communications at CHOICE in Australia. All opinions are Matt’s own, not necessarily those of Which?