Today With Pat Kenny
The mid-morning current affairs magazine with the stories of the day, sharp analysis, in-depth features and consumer interest
Patrick Bury, Security Expert and Tom Clonan, Irish Times Analyst.
A large group of foreign workers including a 36 year old Irishman remain in captivity in the middle of the Algerian desert, surrounded by local forces. An operation to rescue the hostages is fraught with danger as the group of between 20 and 40 workers are being held by Islamist militants.
It is believed the extremists are being led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar – an Algerian with a history of kidnapping and with suspected links to Al Qaeda.
The situation is also complicated by the French military action against Al Qaeda fighters in the African state of Mali – where the French have been battling Islamists for the past week.
We were joined by security expert Patrick Bury who has experience in Libya and Afghanistan and Tom Clonan, Irish Times analyist.
We are told that banks are actively engaging with their more troubled customers and showing compassion in situations where people are in arrears due to dire circumstances.
Well at least one constituent of Wicklow Independent TD Stephen Donnelly would beg to differ and here to tell her story was Stephen Donnelly.
Paddy O'Gorman out and about on the streets.
In 2010 Alan Rusbridger, a keen piano player took on the challenge of learning Chopin's Ballade No.1, a piece so difficult it inspires dread in even professional pianists. He set himself a year to learn it vowing to squeeze daily practice into his working day as editor in chief of The Guardian newspaper.
Perhaps had he known now what the year held in store he would have had second thought for it would transpire that he would steer the Guardian through the most dramatic year in its history – a year that began with wikileaks and ended with the Leveson inquiry into the British Press. In the middle was the Japanese tsunami, the Arab Spring, the English riots, the slow collapse of European finance mechanisms and the death of Osama Bin Laden. So did he manage to perfect his masterpiece?
He joined us in studio today to tell us.
Later today we should have the results of the tests carried on samples taken from the two factories involved in the burger controversy. This should go some way towards explaining how horse meat and traces of pig ended up in burgers that were for sale in some supermarkets both here and in Britain. Joining Pat on the line was Matt Dempsey, Editor, Farmers Journal.
The confusion about leather sofas
You’ve saved for a new sofa or three-piece suite and are hankering after leather; a by word for quality and luxury.
But after just a few months, your leather sofa starts to peel and fray. The bad news is that chances are your leather sofa isn’t leather at all.
Problems such as this represent the most frequent cases in many small claims offices around the country.
So, why isn’t it clear if the sofa is leather or not? What labeling rules are in place? And what are the right questions to ask so that you know exactly what you are getting.
Tina Leonard was here to explain.
You may not have guessed that cases about leather sofas and leather suites of furniture were as frequent as they are in the small claims procedure. So the question is why are there so many?
The answer is that too often people buy sofas, believing them to be leather, only to find them peeling and fraying after some months of normal, wear and tear. Then they discover that their sofa is not leather at all and they seek redress.
There are three main issues why this is the case:
1. Legal labelling requirements are not sufficient. 2. Store information is not necessarily sufficient. 3. There are problems resolving complaints at shop level.
But before looking at these issues it is important to understand what sort of leather you might find on a sofa.
What type of leather might you find in your sofa?
Full grain leather is the top skin of the animal and is the best and most natural hyde.
However, bovine skins are very thick so the remaining layers underneath this top layer can be split. These ‘splits’ are still leather but do not have the same durability or quality as the top grain.
Splits are best used in the making of shoes and accessories and for making suede for example, but for upholstery purposes you could begin to see problems, especially if too many ‘splits’ have been made from the hyde as they might be too thin. You might also get a sofa that has a combination of full grain and ‘splits’, with the ‘splits’ on the less hard-wearing areas such as arms, sides and backs.
So, the next step down from full grain (in terms of quality and durability) would be a sofa made completely from ‘splits’ or from ‘bi-casts’, which is essentially a ‘split’ finished off with a coating of PVC or polyurethane.
Finally, you come to artificial leather i.e. PVC and polyurethane. While these are not necessarily the poorest quality sofas in terms of durability, this would be the biggest deception to reveal to someone if they thought they had bought a leather sofa.
So, how do you know which you are getting?
1. Labelling requirements
You may be familiar with labels saying that the sofa is ‘genuine leather’ or 100% leather. These may be from the manufacturer of leather guilds, but believe it for not this is not a legal requirement.
There are several pieces of legislation dealing with textiles and textiles labeling but leather is not a textile as per the definition of these laws as it is an animal hyde, so these rules don’t apply.
So, if the sofa is 100% textile (i.e. PVC or Polyurethane) it legally requires a label but if the sofa is covered in 100% leather it does not.
However, there is a rule where if textile is part of another product then it may have to be labeled. The rule is that if the textile consists of at least 80% by weight then the product is regarded as a textile and the labeling rules apply.
So, this means that if you have a sofa that is covered in 80% or more textile and 20% or less of leather it will have to have a label indicating this.
But if the sofa is covered in say 79% textile and 21% leather it doesn’t require a label!
2. What about the information given in store?
Quite aside from any labeling law requirements, there are other pieces of consumer legislation that require the seller to be clear and honest about the products they are selling.
For example, under the Consumer Protection Act 2007 the seller can’t mislead or be untruthful about the product and this also relates to the “composition, ingredients, components or accessories” of a product.
Plus, under the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act 1980 the consumer is entitled to products that are “as described”, “fit for purpose” and “of merchantable quality”.
In other words, if you are told it’s a hard wearing, full leather sofa then that’s exactly what it should be.
3. Why are the problems resolving complaints?
By the time a complaint ends up in the small claims system, the consumer will already have tried to resolve it with the shop where they bought the product. The fact that there are so many disputes about leather sofas in the small claims system shows how difficult these problems can be to resolve.
Most usually the dispute will come down to what the customer was told in the shop; how the sofa was described to them. The consumer will often say they were told the sofa was leather, or that they assumed it to be leather. The shop often asserts that they never said the sofa was full leather. Given the difficult in proving what was said, the high cost involved and the element of consumer expectation of the product, these are obvious barriers to an easy resolution in many instances.
What you should look for if you are buying a leather sofa?
• Ask the smart questions
Ask whether it is natural grain or imitation grain? Ask if the covering is full grain leather, whether it contains different types of leather, or if it is part or wholly made from artificial leather. If the seller doesn’t know, walk away.
• Ask to see a sample swatch
A sample swatch of the leather should be available to you. Take a look at it and feel it. Put it against the sofa in store and check that the swatch you’re looking at matches all parts of the sofa, front, back and sides.
• Look at the panels
Look at the back and side panels on the sofa. If it is real grain the leather panels should be relatively small, if the panels are large the grain may not be natural.
• Consider price
Price is generally an indicator of quality when it comes to leather furniture. You can only get what you pay for. So, while let’s say €1,000 for example is a huge amount of money for most, it would be a very cheap price for a full leather suite, so bear that in mind.
As violent protests continue in Belfast over the decision to limit the days on which the British flag flies over City Hall, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has this morning travelled to the North to meet with political leaders at Stormont.
Brian Rowan is security journalist and he joined Pat on the line from Belfast.