Flaking furniture: I-Team gets results for customers

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I-TEAM: Flaking furniture (WLS)

The I-Team exposed complaints about peeling, deteriorating furniture and got results for some customers.

It's a popular type of material that has the look and feel of leather. Customers say salespeople told them it was more "durable" than leather- perfect for pets and kids. But the I-Team found this furniture could be peeling and flaking on your living room floor.

"They started to crack and open up," said Danny McGary.

McGary's furniture looks like old peeling paint. He says his couch and loveseat started deteriorating only a year after purchase.

"As you can see the couch is peeling on the seat," McGary said.

He paid about $2,500 for the set from a neighborhood store in 2013. The furniture is called "Durablend", a brand of blended leather made by Ashley Furniture. According to the label, it's a combination of polyurethane, polyvinyl chloride, poly cotton and leather.

"It's starting to spread upwards this way," McGary said.

McGary and other customers told the I-Team that sales people told them Durablend was more durable than leather.

That "high-performing" claim is in an Ashley Furniture YouTube ad that says: "...made with Durablend, our softest leather but high performing upholstery..."

James Zima, of Hammond, Ind., bought his Durablend couch and loveseat in 2010 for about $2,000. He said it first started peeling after a year.

"When it first started it was like a quarter size. It wasn't that big of a deal," Zima said. "And it just consistently got worse to the state that it is now."

We also found other Durablend customers who sent us these pictures of their peeling couches.

All of the customers featured in our story say Ashley Furniture wasn't responsive, so the I-Team called. A spokesperson wouldn't go on camera but told me Ashley Furniture stands behind their products. He went on to say Ashley representatives would address concerns.

In fact, they gave Zima $1,200 in Ashley Furniture gift cards.

But it's not just Durablend that's deteriorating.

The I-Team found other complaints about different brands of bonded or bi-cast leather furniture. A woman in San Francisco recently got a refund from an online furniture store.

And check out this sectional bought two years ago in west suburban Riverside. The owner received store credit for about $2,000 after the I-Team became involved.

And in Lombard, Stacie Carney got a replacement sofa after battling her manufacturer over this $2,500 cracking couch.

"So when it started to fail less than a year in, we were pretty shocked," Carney said.

Experts say when it peels, it can't be fixed.

"It's a manmade by-product of leather much like pressed wood which is a by-product of wood," said Kevin Gillan, Advance Leather Solutions.

Gillan says if you want "long lasting" leather furniture you need to verify that it is "top grain" or "full grain."

Two furniture industry groups responded to the I-Team saying that advances in imitation leather make it possible for consumers to save money on furniture that looks and feels like real leather, but "these advances also challenge upholstery merchandisers and marketers to describe their products accurately."

McGary and others believe they spent way too much money for furniture that flakes.

"I feel like i was ripped off and lied to for the most part about the quality of the furniture," McGary said.

Most of the people in our story say their damage was either not covered under the warranty or the warranty expired.

The I-Team also called other manufacturers of other blended leather brands besides Durablend. They didn't get back to us.

Experts say if you don't want real leather, you should get vinyl, which they say is the most durable alternative to leather.
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