Starting in January, Quebec will be the only province in Canada with specific laws governing the sale of upholstered goods, mattresses and stuffed articles, after Ontario and Manitoba both eliminated their protection in the past year.
While both Ontario and Manitoba cited federal protections still in place to support the changes, a 2018 Consumers Council of Canada report highlighted that the changes shift consumer protection responsibility onto consumers themselves.
In late 2018, Ontario approved the revocation of the Upholstered and Stuffed Articles regulation, effective July 1, 2019, which eliminated all Ontario-specific requirements for upholstered and stuffed articles imposed on business. It also removed the oversight and enforcement role of the Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA).
Earlier this year, Manitoba announced the repeal of its Bedding and Other Upholstered or Stuffed Articles regulation, effective Jan. 1, 2020, leaving Quebec as the only province with specific laws governing these products.
While making announcements about the elimination of their regulations, both Ontario and Manitoba cited protections under federal laws, Consumer Product Safety Act and Textile Labelling Act. Ontario also noted more broad protections under its Consumer Protection Act – which prohibits misleading descriptions such as claiming new material when material is actually used – and specific federal acts governing the stuffing in dolls and plush toys.
But the Consumers Council of Canada December 2018 report Perspective on Ontario’s Revocation of the Upholstered and Stuffed Articles Regulation noted the lost ability of TSSA inspectors to carry out inspections of license holders “to enter premises, inspect products and write correction orders – including ordering the destruction of an article believed to pose a danger to public health.” Problems that inspections encounter include bed bug infestation, unclean waste products, vermin, fungus and mould, dangerous contents such as glass and metal shards, and other items that can present choking hazards, the report said.
The report included another consequence of the changes – an inability for consumers to identify mattresses that had been briefly used then returned to the store. “If the retailer wants to re-sell the returned mattresses, the current regulations require that the mattresses be ‘yellow tagged’ to indicate they are second-hand or used goods. That requirement will no longer be in force.”
Current Health Canada regulations do not require upholstered or stuffed articles to be labelled, does not require licensing, and does not require only new materials to be used in the filling, There is also no federal registration or inspection activity ensuring that filling is sanitary, except for legislation concerning plush toys.
All of which makes the practices of some manufacturers more problematic for consumers. As an example, one recent mattress tag review showed Sealy mattresses available at a large Canadian retailer with a tag reading “Manufactured in compliance with the Hazardous Products (mattresses) Regulations.” That specific regulation (with an updated name) only references fire safety. More importantly, this kind of tagging may reasonably give the false impression that consumers are still protected to the same degree as they once were when buying mattresses, winter coats and upholstered furniture.