If you live in any of the 15 states where Bob’s Discount Furniture operates, you’re probably familiar with the retailer’s “Dare to Compare” ads that pit expensive brand-name furniture against Bob’s more affordable versions. But one major mattress maker claims some of these comparisons are misleading and illegal.
Serta Simmons recently filed a lawsuit [PDF] against Bob’s in a Chicago federal court, accusing the retailer of false advertising and deceptive trade practices.
In particular, Serta takes issue with ads that compare Simmons’ Beautyrest Black Mattress to Bob’s Black Label Gel Euro-Top Mattress.
“Both have comfy gel-infused memory foams, supportive latex foam, individually wrapped innerspring coils, and luxurious stretched thin fabric,” states the Bob’s commercial. “So, besides the fancy logo, what’s another big difference? Well, theirs is priced at a whopping $2799, while ours is priced at only $999. Plus, you get the satisfaction of knowing you didn’t just spend $1800 on a fancy logo.”
The issue, according to the lawsuit, is that Bob’s only shows one set of each of these items, despite the fact that the Serta bed and the Bob’s bed use different springs and foams. By using just one image, argues the complaint, Bob’s is misleading the viewer into thinking both beds are made of the same exact materials.
Serta says it sent Bob’s a cease-and-desist letter about this ad in May 2017. In response, a lawyer representing Bob’s argued that the retailer’s ad does not imply that the two beds are identical except for price.
The ad “merely states that each product contains those elementary mattress components,” reads the response [PDF], which attempts to use a sporting goods analogy to make Bob’s case.
“It’s like an ad by a golf club manufacturer comparing its club to a competitor’s club which states that each club has a steel shaft, an adjustable hosel, a rubber grip and blade iron club heads,” explains the attorney for Bob’s. “Such a statement hardly implies that the clubs are the ‘same.’ Many variations remain.”
Though this ad still remains on the Bob’s website and YouTube account, the company did subsequently release a second ad comparing these same mattresses, but without that diagram of the springs and foams:
“Both have comfy gel-infused memory foams, supportive latex foam, individually wrapped innerspring coils, and luxurious stretched thin fabric,” states this second ad. “Sure, they’re not exactly the same, but you be the judge. Theirs is priced at a whopping $2799, while ours is priced at only $999.”
Even though this version of the ad eschews the allegedly confusing diagram of the mattress materials and explicitly states that the two mattresses are “not exactly the same,” Serta contends that “such statements and imagery deceive or are likely to deceive customers about the true nature, characteristics, and quality of Bob’s Mattress and Simmons’ Mattress, namely by implying that Bob’s Mattress and Simmons’ Mattress contain the same components and/or materials when, in fact, they do not.”
Serta points out that in 2013, Bob’s agreed to take down one of its other mattress ads after receiving a cease-and-desist from Serta Simmons. However, in that dispute the issue involved apparently inaccurate comparisons regarding the thickness of a gel memory foam layer on the compared mattresses. That’s a more cut-and-dry issue, as opposed to a general “we’re made of similar components but cost less” comparison ad.
Neither company is commenting publicly on this latest lawsuit, notes the Chicago Tribune.