After months of discussion with AHFA staff and several AHFA member company executives, the State of Utah has decided to postpone a new requirement for e-commerce sites to display a uniform law label for upholstered furniture before an online purchase is made.
Regulators in Utah revised the state’s labeling law for bedding, upholstered furniture and quilted clothing in April 2023. The change added provisions designed to protect online shoppers. Specifically, online retailers were required to make a product’s law label visible to the consumer prior to a purchase. But by the time the rule’s January 2024 effective date rolled around, Utah officials had not yet determined exactly how the rule could be applied to custom order upholstery.
In response to concerns submitted by AHFA and other industry stakeholders, the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF) announced in September 2023 that it would engage only in “soft enforcement” through June 2024; that is, they would notify online retailers if violations were detected but not issue fines.
Of primary concern was how to provide an accurate upholstery law label for a special order product that is not yet manufactured.
In December, AHFA hosted three Utah officials on tours of Century and Craftmaster upholstery plants in North Carolina, explaining in detail why an accurate law label cannot be created for a product prior to it being manufactured. Customer options for foam and other filling materials would result in dozens of possible variations to the law label. Further, companies with multiple factory locations might shift production locations depending on a variety of factors not known at the time the order is placed. One Utah retailer estimated it would take thousands of hours for its technology team to design and upload the range of possible law labels for just one vendor.
Unable to satisfy the requirements of the rule, some manufacturers reported they would cease distributing products in Utah.
In January AHFA lobbyists elevated the industry concerns to members of the Utah legislature. AHFA met with the Utah Commissioner of Agriculture, Craig Buttars, and key staff to discuss the best path forward. As a result, in February state officials took emergency action to remove the new provisions from the current state law label regulation.
“Based on feedback from the furniture industry regarding the difficulty of satisfying the new rule requirements … the Department has agreed to remove the references to online sales and draft new changes that balance the need to convey important information to consumers, ensure industry consistency, and take into consideration the complicated nature of made-to-order furniture manufacturing,” Utah officials explained in the emergency order.
AHFA has agreed to continue working with the state to develop industry “best practices” for conveying important product information to online consumers, including providing details on the content of various cushion/filling options available for special order upholstery. A timeline for any future revisions has not been established.