Do not remove those ‘do-not-remove’ tags

Consumer Reports News: May 14, 2010 01:42 PM

Since I’m not taking names, it’s OK to fess up. How many of you have ever wondered – even if only for a moment -- whether you could really be fined or do jail time for tearing off those do-not-remove “under penalty of law” labels sewn onto pillows, upholstered furniture and, most notoriously, mattresses? The ridiculous thought of citizens being hauled off by the label police has been the stuff of comedy for years, the crowning symbol for silly, over-the-top government obtrusiveness.

Legally, you’ve got nothing to worry about. You’re not breaking the law. To date, we haven’t heard a single story of G-men lurking in the bushes outside of anyone’s home, waiting to break down the door and pounce on offenders. 

The stern warning is aimed at retailers and manufacturers, not people like you and me. The labels came into being years ago to protect consumers from unscrupulous companies that stuffed beds labeled as new with old, dirty, infested, or infected materials and other debris, thus duping the public and also exposing them to potential health risks, including bedbugs. The labels were actually amended in the 1970s to make it clear that the do-not-remove threat wasn’t aimed at the average Joe. Instead of stating only “under penalty of law this tag not to be removed,” officials inserted the addendum “except by the consumer.”

The tags are important because they contain identifying information, a description of the filling (for instance, polyester, goose down, feathers, or cotton) and the percentage of each, whether (and how much of) the materials are new or used, and details about flame retardancy. Other labeling requirements include country of origin  (for example, “Made in the U.S.A. of imported materials” or “Shell made in China, filled and finished in the U.S.A.”), as well as the name of the manufacturer, importer, distributor, or vendor.

Frankly, we gave little thought on the law tags in our recent mattress report. But after receiving a recent letter from a reader who’d been denied warranty service on a mattress because he had removed the tag, we decided to take a closer look.

And sure enough, loping off the tag could come back to haunt you if you can’t resolve a warranty problem with the retailer who sold you the mattress and need to plead your case to the manufacturer. 

We checked the policies of three of the largest mattress makers, Sealy, Simmons, and Serta, and all agreed you must have the law tag in order to have your claim processed.  What’s not 100 percent clear, however, is whether the tag must be permanently attached to the mattress or if it’s adequate to simply possess a tag that’s been cut off.

When I asked a warranty representative from Simmons for clarification, she confirmed that the act of cutting off the tag could, in fact, void my warranty. So, while big brother might not be watching, you might want to think twice before whipping out those scissors after all.



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