Watchdog condemns Da Vinci as 'a con'

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 July, 2011, 12:00am


Shanghai-based luxury furniture chain Da Vinci has been 'branded as a con' by the city's consumer watchdog, local media reported yesterday.

It follows the release of records by Shanghai customs officials showing that about 10 per cent of the furniture Da Vinci sold as 'imported' this year was domestically produced and had never physically left the country.

There were also reports yesterday that the Shanghai Administration for Industry and Commerce had ordered the firm to cease selling 'suspect merchandise' after furniture failed quality checks and was found to be made from materials that did not match labelling. However, staff at a Da Vinci outlet in Shanghai said the shop was 'operating as normal'.

Da Vinci has been under fire since Sunday when a China Central Television programme accused the chain of selling domestically made furniture as being imported from Italy.

The claims have caused a major scandal among Da Vinci's wealthy mainland customers, who were previously keen to pay high prices for showy, European-style furniture.

Shanghai Consumer Protection Council secretary general Zhao Jiaoli told the Labour Daily that it would represent customers demanding refunds and compensation after receiving 35 complaints about the firm. 'Da Vinci has been completely branded as a con,' Zhao told the paper. '[After] conning consumers, it isn't just a question of returning goods and refunding the money. They definitely need to give one-to-one refunds and compensation.'

The industry and commerce administration said its investigations had found Da Vinci had erred on three counts: false advertising, selling substandard products, and labelling the majority of furniture in ways that contravened national standards, Xinhua reported yesterday. Cupboards from Italian firm Cappelletti marked as solid wood were in fact made of a mixture of melamine and plywood, with a wooden veneer.

Most of the furniture was not clearly labelled with the exact materials used or where it had been produced. Many items were marked simply 'wood' or 'metal', in contravention of national guidelines. Further adding to the company's woes, its Hangzhou branch has been closed since Wednesday after local authorities found it did not have the proper fire-safety certificates.

Shanghai's Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau said that 11 of the 110 batches of furniture Da Vinci had imported through the city's ports this year had in fact originated in China, and had been exported just days previously. The goods had sat in a bonded area of the docks and had never been loaded onto a ship, but required import certificates as they had been cleared through customs. The furniture had been produced for US brand Thomasville by two firms in Ningbo and Haining, both in Zhejiang province.

Da Vinci chief Doris Phua said earlier that all Italian brands sold in Da Vinci's outlets were fully made in Italy. The company did not respond to calls seeking comment yesterday.