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Just seven days ago, I used this column to discuss a two-year-old UK advertising case to discuss definitions of leather and issues with what gets called "bonded" leather. Within an hour, by pure coincidence, a colleague sent me a copy of an article from the U.S. on exactly the same subject.
This is significant since the U.S. is one part of the world where we had heard that definitions and legal terms related to leather were too weak to defend, whereas elsewhere we have the law more or less OK but, apart from in Brazil, never try and enforce it.
More than anything we need successful cases to refer to so that we can discourage future abuses and make all parties more vigilant. In this instant, we have a class action in Florida where consumers are complaining that the company "sold bonded leather furniture that peels, flakes and deteriorates, did not honor related warranties and didn’t properly disclose that the product was not genuine leather."
The article published in Furniture Today states that the company has agreed "to pay refunds and credits to thousands of customers affected", and the owner has stated that they no longer sell "bonded leather" furniture. The court has to agree the adequacy of the settlement. In a similar case in San Diego a customer received a full refund after complaining to the media.
One great source of information about consumers and their experiences with leather comes from the repair trade. A mix of passion for leather, and the endless frustration of having to repair items that are supposedly leather, has lead one to produce an online dictionary. Still partially under development, this initiative to help the consumer and us all is to applauded.
Modern technology and society's needs for materials to work alongside leather, where supply is inevitably limited by our byproduct status, means that we will always be working alongside competitive articles sharing some of leather's properties. If the definition of leather is ever to adjust to fit a changing world, then tanners need to be in charge of the process.
Attempts to date to use the term leather on alternate materials have only been with the intention of stealing the reputation of leather to sell inferior goods. This we must push back.
21st February 2017
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