BEIJING - A retailer of international brand furniture, which has recently been suspected of selling poor-quality fake foreign products at high prices, has insisted it does not play foul with buyers but has admitted "faults" in its employees' sales tactics.
Panzhuang Xiuhua, general manager of Da Vinci Furniture Co Ltd, a Shanghai-based furniture retailer that has gained a reputation as a well-known sales agent for overseas furniture brands in China, told a press conference that all the Italian furniture displayed in her outlets "was truly made in Italy".
However, Panzhuang said: "The 'American furniture' displayed in our stores, including Hollywood Homes, was made in Vietnam, the Philippines, India, Indonesia and China."
She said buyers had been informed about the place of manufacture by the salesmen.
The company's credibility and quality problems became known after complaints from customers.
A Beijing resident surnamed Tang sent the furniture she bought from a Da Vinci store for a quality check at the Beijing-based National Center for Quality Supervision and Inspection of Furniture and Indoor Environment after she realized the furniture gave off an unpleasant smell, China Central Television (CCTV) reported on Sunday.
The results showed that the furniture failed to meet three quality standards. For example, a TV table was substandard because of the use of high density board, according to the CCTV report.
Peng Jie, a whistleblower from Changfeng Furniture Company in Dongguan city in South China's Guangdong province, told the media that his employer has worked as a subcontractor for Da Vinci.
One double bed, bearing the label of Cappelletti, which was priced at 30,000 yuan ($4,638) in Changfeng's plant, cost 300,000 yuan in Da Vinci shops as it had been "imported" from Italy, Peng told CCTV.
Peng was sacked on Monday, a source from the company who refused to give his name, told China Daily on Wednesday.
In response to Peng's allegation, Panzhuang Xiuhua told the press conference his remarks were groundless.
She denied that the made-in-China furniture is sent from the harbor in Shenzhen city "to Italy" and later transported to Da Vinci's storehouse in Shanghai as made-in-Italy products.
Da Vinci purchased furniture from more than 50 Italian companies and the total trade amount reached 45 million euro ($64.6 million) in 2010, said Antonio Munafo, who was introduced at the conference as the CEO of Italian furniture producer Jumbo. He said all the accusations against Da Vinci were "false".
An unidentified customer interrupted the press conference twice, yelling that it was useless and would do little to relieve customers' concerns.
After the news briefing, disappointed customers told China Daily that they were considering returning all their purchases and asking Da Vinci for compensation.
"Da Vinci plays a trick of mixing pearl and fish eye together, so we customers paid for pearl but got fish eye," an angry customer surnamed Ding, who said he had spent nearly 3 million yuan in Da Vinci stores, told China Daily after attending the conference.
The commerce authority in Shanghai launched a quality probe at Da Vinci's warehouse in Qingpu district on Monday. It found 233 pieces of furniture labeled Cappelletti and initial inspection showed that some of the furniture was of poor quality, CCTV reported on Tuesday.
Local authorities have started an investigation into Da Vinci for possible violations of consumers' interests, the report said.