|Source • Brands||
Price • Origin
Limitless Digital Group, Ltd.
Burnley BB11 5UB
(Below North American Standard)
This Company In Brief
Hudson Reed is a trade name used by a British company, Limitless Digital Group, Ltd., to sell products for the bath over the Internet. It describes itself as a multi-national, multi-brand retailer. It sells in Ireland, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Italy, and Spain as well as in the U.S. and Canada. The faucets it sells in North America are from China.
Read our full report on Illegal and Black Market Faucets.
Hudson Reed is a trade name used by Limitless Digital Group, Ltd. to retail products for bathrooms over the Internet in North America and Europe. It describes itself as an "international digital retailer focusing in the main on the home improvement sector" in its company filings.
The corporation was until recently one of the many subsidiaries of Ultra Finishing, Limited, having had several incarnations since its organization in 2000. It was originally Ultra Truflow Ltd. Its name was changed to Trueshopping, Ltd. in 2006 and to Limitless Digital in a 2016 restructuring.
The company's chief competitors in North America are Clawfoot Supply, Inc. doing business as
Ultra Finishing started modestly in 1982 as a metal plating company founded by Stephen Heys. Today it is a conglomerate that still manufactures shower valves and gardening products through its various subsidiary companies. Its main business, however, is that of an importer and retailer of Asian, mostly Chinese, products that are sold under a variety of brand names. It describes itself as a leading supplier of bathroom products.
The Hudson Reed brand was adopted by Ultra Finishing in 20011. It represented a departure by the company from its traditional manufacturing and distribution businesses into the then relatively new arena of internet retailing.
Ultra grew its internet retail business, in part, by acquisition. In 2012 it bought control of Niko International, Ltd., a competing distributor of plumbing and sanitary wares. The addition increased the scope of Ultra's inventory by adding bathtubs, and shower enclosures to its product line. The purchase of Mark Two Distributors, Ltd. out of liquidation in 2013 further expanded its offerings into built-in bathroom furniture such as vanities and mirrors2.
The Hudson Reed brand was shared across a half dozen or so Ultra companies selling more or less the same products for many years until 2016 when it was consolidated under Limitless Digital Group directed by Peter James Lilley. Limitless Digital was removed from under the Ultra Finishing umbrella and restructured as a direct subsidiary of Ultra Finishing's parent company, GKH Holdings Limited, a family holding company owned by the Heys family3. The consolidation was a part of a major restructuring and modernization of United Finishing's various businesses after several years of significant financial loses.
In addition to Hudson Reed, Limitless Digital also manages The BIG Bathroom Shop®, BestHeating® and BeamLED® brands in the U.K. and Europe.
Almost all European companies that sell faucets in the U.S. and Canada do so through subsidiaries or distributors in North America that handle sales and after-sale support. Limitless Digital uses a different model. Hudson Reed's sales and support are handled from its headquarters in the English Midlands. But, it would not be practical to locate order fulfillment in England so it is located in the U.S., outsourced to a third party: Rakuten Super Logistics4, a subsidiary of the Japanese corporation that owns Rakuten.com, an Amazon-like internet retailer operating in the U.S. and Canada.
Rakuten Super Logistics receives shipments of goods on behalf of Hudson Reed from its Asian suppliers, warehouses the products, and fulfills retail orders for Hudson Reed products as they are sold to North American customers. Most fulfillment is handled from Scranton, Pennsylvania and Olean, New York, but Rakuten has six warehouse centers nationwide, and claims that it delivers 98% of all orders within two days.
This low overhead model is somewhat similar to the strategy used by the German luxury faucet company, of Stuttgart. The approach takes advantage of the fact that with smart phones and the Internet, physical proximity to a market is no longer necessary to sell in that market. To a plumber or homeowner located in Miami, Memphis or Montreal, technical or customer support provided from England is just as useful as help from California or Connecticut. But, to be successful, the time difference between customer and company must be overcome. In2aqua has done so by ensuring that there is technical and customer support available during North American business hours.
Lead in Chinese Faucets
Lead is by some accounts more dangerous than arsenic. The maximum acceptable level of lead contamination in drinking water in the U.S. and Canada set by the EPA and CEPA is 5 parts per billion (ppb) — that's billion with a "b".
Yet, that may still be too much lead. According to the World Health Organization, "[t]here is no known level of lead exposure that is considered safe."[Note 1] Regulators would prefer a no-lead standard, But, the EPA's maximum lead level of 5 ppb in drinking water reflects what is do-able — about what current technology can achieve. But, expect it to be set lower as technology improves.
Lead hazardous to human health particularly of children, attacking the brain and central nervous system causing developmental and learning disorders and, in severe cases, dementia, coma and even death.[Note 2]
In China, the source of most off-brand faucets sold in the U.S. and Canada, there is no lead limit in drinking water, and faucets made for the domestic market often contain large amounts of lead. Lead is still prized in Chinese manufacturing because it is plentiful, cheap, easy to form and shape, and resistant to corrosion. Lead compounds are regularly added to plastics and vinyl to make them more resistant to high temperatures; and to cheap metal products to make them seem more substantial by increasing their weight.[Note 3]
Most Chinese (including doctors) do not recognize lead as a significant hazard. As a result, few regulations have been enacted to control for lead. There is no consumer product safety commission and no laws mandating lead-free buildings. Lead contamination is not taken seriously by the Chinese faucet industry or by government regulators. Acute lead poisoning of entire towns and villages from nearby smelters and factories is common in China. Chronic long-term exposure from smokestacks, lead paint, coal burning and contaminated water affects millions of Chinese citizens.
According to Human Rights Watch, Chinese parents seeking help for children with typical lead poisoning symptoms: loss of appetite, incessant fever, sluggish and agitated behavior, are commonly arrested rather that given aid[Note 4]. By some estimates, as many as 1/3rd of all children in China are affected by some degree of lead poisoning[Note 5].
China has no EPA to help control environmental pollution, and nothing like OSHA to regulate exposure to dangerous pollutants in the workplace. Chinese government assessments of contaminants in the environment are known to be wildly unreliable. A recent study by Chinese scientists of water in the reservoir that feeds 60% of Beijing households found levels of lead 20 times the maximum set by the World Health Organization.[Note 6]
Chinese faucet testing standards (GB18145) do not include a lead limit. Shi Hongwei, Deputy Director of Quality Supervision for China's National Building Material Industry, Inspection and Testing Center announced in 2013 that China would implement limits on lead content in plumbing fixtures in 2014. But, 2014 has come and gone without action by the Chinese government.[Note 7]
No one, not even the most experienced expert, can tell by looking at a faucet whether or not it contains a dangerous amount of lead. The only safeguard is laboratory testing and certification by an accredited laboratory that a faucet is "lead-free" to the very strict U.S. and Canadian standards.
If your faucet is not certified, it may very well be slowly and silently poisoning yourself and your family. Something to keep in mind when choosing a faucet.
1. "Lead Poisoning and Health: Fact Sheet", World Health Organization. Updated July 2016. World Health Organization. Web 22 July 2016.
2. "Lead Poisoning and Health: Fact Sheet", World Health Organization. Updated July 2016. World Health Organization. Web 22 July 2016.
3. Wang S, Zhang J. "Blood lead levels in children, China". Environmental Research. 2006. Web 2 Aug 2017.
4. "My Children Have Been Poisoned: A Public Health Crisis in Four Chinese Provinces", Human Rights Watch. Web 2 Aug 2017.
5. Amon, Joe. "China Is Hurting Its Future By Not Acting on Lead Poisoning". Huffington Post, 22 Aug 2011. Huffington Post. Web 20 July 2016.
6. Liu, Charles. "Beijing Says Tap Water is Safe, but Chinese Scientists Disagree". The Nanfang. 4 May 2016. Nanfang Limited (Hong Kong). Web 20 July 2016.
7. "Toward a Mandatory Standard for Heavy Metal Content". Huao Sanitary Ware News. 17 Mar 2016. Huao Sanitary Ware. Web. 20 July 2016.
The faucets we obtained for testing can be safely characterized as nondescript Chinese faucets, outstanding for neither style nor quality. They are representative of Chinese designs — pleasing, but conservative. There are very few styling adventures in China where manufacturers generally sell mass-market faucets. To appeal the widest possible market, producers stay well within safe styling boundaries.
Asian designs are usually adapted from North American and European faucets. A design that does well in these major markets will usually show up in Asian faucets, typically in slightly modified form (to avoid patent infringement), but it takes three to five years, by which time new designs are no longer new.
The ceramic cartridges used in the Hudson Reed faucets we examined were made in China. But, that's about all we know about them. There are no markings on the cartridges identifying the actual manufacturer. In our experience, Chinese manufacturers that have gained an international reputation for good quality ceramic cartridges generally identify their products. The absence of identification marks usually suggests a lower quality component.
Ultra Finishing owns a cartridge manufacturing company, Valquest, Ltd., that makes very good thermostatic cartridges for showers, but it does not manufacture faucet cartridges.
Just two finishes are available: chrome and nickel. All faucets are available in chrome, only a few in nickel. The finishes we examined were very good, heavy plated and well polished finishes that should easily stand up to a lot of abuse.
The handles, base plates and some other incidental parts of our test faucets were zinc or ZAMAC, a zinc/aluminum alloy, rather than brass, but the faucet bodies were brass and quite substantial. The use of zinc or a zinc alloy where strength does not matter does no harm to the quality of a faucet, and saves a little money. The use of brass (or stainless steel) in critical parts is what we look for.
Hudson Reed products are sold primarily through Hudson Reed web sites in Canada and the U.S., but also on web sites that host third-party retailers such as Amazon and Houzz, and auction sites such as eBay. Oddly enough, although Rakuten handles Hudson Reed's order fulfillment in North America, the products are not sold on Rakuten.com.
Hudson Reed's two North American web sites were rewritten starting in early 2013 to be more user friendly. They are well designed and colorful with intuitive navigation using the familiar drop-down menu format. The two sites are virtually identical except for pricing which is stated in local currency and the fact that Canada's web site is also viewable in French.
Since the consolidation under Limitless Digital, the faucet offerings have changed. Old familiar favorites such as the Topaz, Tec, Grace and Kubix designer lines, are still available in the UK and Europe as part of collections that include showers and other products of the same design. The new lineup of faucets for the North American market is not nearly as interesting and the faucets do not coordinate with other products.
The company has sold other brands in the past. Beginning in 2014 it sold but these relationships ended in 2016.
Information about faucets on the web sites is so-so. Each faucet is well illustrated with multiple views of the faucet installed in a kitchen or bath, making it easer to discern detail and visualize the faucet from all angles. But, there are no truly detailed specifications. While there is a "Specifications" tab that brings up a table, it is largely a rehash of the information already appearing in the faucet's "Overview" page.
The finishes available on each faucet are listed and the basic faucet material (brass or stainless) is specified, but ceramic cartridges are not identified by manufacturer which is useful in determining whether a cartridge is likely to be of good quality. Companies that equip their faucets with top quality cartridges commonly identify the cartridge manufacturer as an additional inducement to buy the faucets.
Installation instructions are in downloadable .pdf format, but buried under a tab entitled "Help & Advice" — not where we would ordinarily look for them. Not all faucets have installation instructions on line.
Installation of our test faucets was rated by our plumber as "Easy" on a four point scale from "Very Hard" to "Very Easy". Instructions are in the form of drawings with very little or no text — obviously intended to be language-independent. Most steps were easy to figure out and follow, but sometimes a more intense study and a little head-scratching was required.
One step required the aerator be removed and the water turned on for 15 seconds, then the aerator re-installed. Deciphering that set of illustrations took a few minutes and a second cup of coffee. (The instructions did not mention that the aerator should also be backwashed to remove any debris caught in the aerator screen before it is re installed.) Little icons are used to tell you whether the illustrated operation is to be performed above or below the sink — a clever and useful device that avoids a lot of confusion.
Average installation time was less than 20 minutes, but this is the time required by an experienced professional with all tools and parts right at hand. Your installation may take longer. Some readers have reported that the faucets and showers they received were built to European metric standards, requiring adapters to connect to North American plumbing. Adapters are not provided with the faucet. While some simple adapters are sold by most hardware stores, anything complicated will require a trip or two to the plumbing supply house.
Hudson Reed has a "no questions asked" 30-day return policy with no re-stocking fee. Unless the faucet is damaged or defective, the buyer pays for the return shipping.
After the 30 days, you have to rely on the Hudson Reed warranty for help with repairing a defective faucet. And that can be a problem.
The North American standard "limited lifetime" warranty lasts "as long as the original buyer owns the faucet". The Hudson Reed North American warranty is somewhat less comprehensive:
"We offer a 10 year warranty, unless otherwise stated, against manufacturing defects on all products when used in normal domestic applications (excluding serviceable parts, neglect or abuse). Additionally, we guarantee the surface finishing, ten years on chrome (unless otherwise stated) and five years on stainless steel."Under the U.S. Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act this is a "full" rather than a "limited" warranty, which gives the consumer more statutory rights. It's coverage is transferable to any subsequent owner of the faucet during the 10 year warranty period. The warranty does not limit what the company will do to remedy a defect, which means that Hudson Reed is liable for all of the direct costs of restoring the faucet, including both labor and parts, and any resulting damages caused by the defective faucet. If a Hudson Reed faucet leaks, flooding a kitchen, the cost of repairing the damage from the flood is the responsibility of the company.
However, the warranty is a little tricky. "Serviceable parts" are excluded from warranty coverage. The commonly accepted definition of the term "serviceable" is "capable of functioning" as in "The faucet was old, but still serviceable".5. Hudson Reed does not use the term in its common meaning. It appears to use it as a "term or art" meaning parts that "can be serviced", which could potentially apply to any part of a faucet except the finish. Since this term of art is not defined in the warranty, it would probably not be allowed under the MMWA which requires "simple and readily understood language” [15 U.S.C. § 2302(a)] meaning that Hudson Reed cannot give words uncommon meanings unfamiliar to the buying public unless the unusual meaning is defined and explained in the warranty document.
Enforcing warranty rights under the WWMA might be a problem, however. Limitless Digital is in England and not subject to a lawsuit in a U.S. court except through the elaborate procedures required for service of process on foreign companies under the Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil and Commercial Matters, an often time-consuming and daunting process.
We are not entirely sure what to make of this warranty. It may be that the company is fully aware of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act and intends to provide a warranty of virtually unlimited scope and expense. More probably, however, it has simply migrated its UK warranty to the U.S. without consulting a competent lawyer as to its implications under U.S. law.6
Customer service in England can delay post-sale service and warranty claims. While the sales department is open from 3:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. EST, the rest of the company closes at 5:00 p.m. British (GMT) Time which is 11:00 a.m. in New York and 8:00 a.m. in Los Angeles. So, getting help with anything other than a sales issue may require starting your day a bit earlier than usual.
Long hold times are common — so common that the company has instituted a call-back system permitting you to leave your number and get a return telephone call "in the order in which your call was received." You will ordinarily get a call back the same day, but not always. If you miss the call back, however, you have to start over.
Agents are cheerful but are not well-versed on faucets (which, after all, are just a tiny portion of the company's overall business) and often cannot handle any but fairly simple questions. Complicated matters have to be referred to Technical Support for resolution, which is, more often than not, already closed for the day — a tad awkward if you are under the sink in the middle of installing a faucet and can't figure out from the instructions how part A joins to part B.
We rate post-sale customer service no better than average with systemic issues stemming from the time difference that need to be addressed by the company.
Hudson Reed seems to have a continuing problem complying with U.S. and Canadian laws and regulations that govern the sale and installation of plumbing and sanitary wares.
As Trueshopping, Ltd. the company was sanctioned with a civil fine in 2013 by the U.S. Department of Energy for failing to heed regulations under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act that require importers of foreign-made showers to file a statement for each basic shower model sold in the U.S. attesting that it does not exceed the maximum flow rate mandated by federal law. (Hudson Reed: Order 2011-SW-2909)
The company does not seem to have learned all that much from the experience. While Hudson Reed now files the required statements for its showers, it still does not for its faucets.
Importers of faucets are required by law to test each faucet using the protocol required by the Department of Energy (essentially identical to the ASME A112.181.1 protocol — see below — which is accepted as a compliant test), then file a flow-rate statement for each sink faucet model brought into the U.S.
The filing must be completed and approved before the faucet is placed on the market for sale, and then annually for as long as it remains on the market. Although the company claims on the Hudson Reed web site that all of its products "comply totally with US and Canadian specifications and regulations"7, its failure to conform to this federally mandated filing requirement is ample evidence that it's compliance is less than total and its claim less than true.
Failure to comply can be expensive. The penalty is $440 per day for each non-compliant faucet starting from the day it was first offered for sale in the U.S. The High Rise Vessel Faucet (UFG-N10119A2) that has been continuously offered for sale on the Hudson Reed U.S. web site for The penalties add up quickly. For the dozen or so faucets Hudson Reed currently offers for sale, the penalties could easily close in on several million dollars.
Hudson Reed also claims on its North American web sites that its faucets are "[t]hird party certified to ASME A112.18.1/CSA B125.1 and all applicable requirements therein including ANSI/NSF 61". We're not sure who this third party might be, but we are sure who it is not. It is not one of the seven accredited organizations authorized to test and certify faucets to North American Standards8.
None of these has tested Hudson Reed brand faucets and listed them as certified. Without certification, Hudson Reed faucets do not comply with "US and Canadian specifications" as the company claims. US and Canadian specifications require certification of all sink faucets installed in drinking water systems.
The faucets themselves are stamped with a cUPC Shield mark (see illustration) evidencing certification by IAPMO-RT, the testing service of the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials. However, IAPMO-RT does not list Hudson Reed brand faucets as certified and, according to a IAPMO-RT spokesperson, has not approved the company's use of the registered cUPC trademark on the Hudson Reed web site or cUPC shield logo on Hudson Reed brand faucets.
Over the past 2 years, we have asked the company several times for faucet certification documents. We have not received a single one. What have gotten is variations of the most recent response we received on September 12, 2017:
"After speaking with our technical team and our quality department they have confirmed that we are currently awaiting up to date certificates from our suppliers."Or something akin to the company's reply to our request on October 26, 2015:
"We have requested for the new IAPMO certificate, And it will be updated shortly on the website. It will probably be in the next month or so."In response to yet another request we were instructed that the best way to locate the certificates was to Google the web. We did find certificates, for shower components, that expired in 2016 and have not been renewed.
After two years no certificates have appeared on the company's North American websites, and we have never received a certificate from the company. It's not that the company is ignorant of U.S./Canadian certification requirements. It has certified showers in the past, and has active certifications for a few valves at IAPMO-RT as of the date of this report. It just chooses to ignore the requirements.
The fact that Hudson Reed faucets are made in China, where safety standards in general are very loose, and where safety standards for toxic materials such as lead, mercury, cadmium and arsenic do not exist at all, heightens the concern over the potential hazards of these products. No one, not even the most experienced expert, can determine whether a faucet contains dangerous amounts of hazardous substances just by looking at it. Only extensive testing can do that — the very testing that Hudson Reed has not done.
Asian-manufactured faucets comparable to those sold by Hudson Reed but which comply with all U.S. and Canadian standards and regulations include
In light of the fact that Hudson Reed faucets are not certified to U.S./Canadian standards and may not be lawfully installed in any drinking water system in the U.S. or Canada, we suggest one of these other faucet brands would be a better choice. There is no reason to buy an uncertified faucet and assume the risk of slow but certain poisoning from any of the myriad of harmful and toxic substances that may be contained in an uncertified faucet.
If you do decide to buy a Hudson Reed faucet, demand a listing certificate showing that the faucet fully complies with U.S./Canadian reliability and safety standards. These are often separate documents, but are just as often combined into one certificate.
The minimum requirements for a valid listing certificate are the following:
1. Must be issued by one of the seven organizations authorized to certify faucets (see the list in the footnotes, below).
2. Must identify the standard or standards used for certification: ASME A.112.18.1/CSA B125.1, ANSI/NSF 372 and/or ANSI/NSF 61 (which may have been consolidated and listed as ANSI/NSF 61/9) Any faucet tested to an ASME A.112.18.1/CSA B125.1 standard dated 2012 or later is authomatically tested for compliance with ANSI/NSF 372 and ANSI/NSF 61.
3. Must contain the name "Hudson Reed" or "Limitless Digital" on the face of the certificate as either the listing entity or additional listing entity.
4. Must clearly show the model faucet you are intending to purchase as one of the faucets listed by model name or number on the certificate. If the company tells you that the Acme model you are asking about is actually the same as the ABC model appearing on the certificate — that's not good enough. The Acme model name must actually appear on the certificate. If the model you are buying does not appear on the certificate under the model name appearing in the seller's catalog or web-site entry, then it is not certified.
5. Must be dated indicating that it is a current certificate.Do not rely on certification marks such as "cUPC" that may be stamped into or imprinted on the faucet. According to IAPMO-RT, the certifying organization that owns the UPC-Shield trademark, it has not certified Hudson Reed faucets and the company is not authorized to impress the mark on its faucets. For an explanation of the various certification marks that may appear on faucets, see Keeping Faucets Safe.
If you actually do manage to get a listing certificate from Hudson Reed (and good luck with that, we've never seen one), send us a copy. We'd like to verify its bona fides. These documents are often forged or altered (not that Hudson Reed would do anything like that).
We are continuing to research the company. If you have experience with Hudson Reed faucets, good, bad or indifferent, we would like to hear about it, so please contact us or post a comment below.
1. Operations under the Hudson Reed name began in North America in 2004. The name Hudson Reed was filed for registration that same year, but the registration was not completed in the U.S. or Canada until 2006.
2. Mark Two has subsequently been liquidated and is now defunct.
3. A spokesperson for the Limitless Digital Group, Ltd. informed us that the company is now totally separated from the Ultra Finishing family of companies and is no longer a subsidiary of GKH Holdings. We have not been able to confirm the change through Companies House filings. A certification statement dated May 22, 2017 lists several members of the Stephen Heys family and GKH Holdings, Ltd. as holders of voting shares.
4. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, "serviceable" means "Fulfilling its function adequately; in working order; usable; as in: "an aging but still serviceable water supply system."
5. Formerly Webgistix Corporation. Webgistix has been a part of Rakuten, since 2013 when it was acquired by the Japanese on-line retailer and renamed to Rakuten Super Logistics.
6. Under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act a written warranty must include the following:
7. "All our products comply totally with US and Canadian specifications and regulations." From the Hudson Reed U.S. web site as of the date of this report.
8. The seven organizations testing for compliance with ASME A112.18.1/CSA B125.1, NSF 61 and NSF 372 are:
• CSA Group (CSA): Formerly the Canadian Standards Association, authorizes the use of the "CSA" mark and logo on certified faucets.
• International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO-RT): Authorizes the use of the "UPC" mark and shield logo on certified faucets. The "UPC" mark was imprinted on some Hudson Reed faucets we examined, but IAPMO-RT spokespersons assured us that the faucets are not certified by IAPMO-RT and use of the mark is not authorized.
• International Codes Council - Evaluation Service (ICC-ES): Authorizes the use of the "ICC-ES" mark and logo on certified faucets.
• Intertek Testing Services NA (ETL): Authorizes the use of the "ETL-US" mark and logo on faucets certified to U.S./Canadian standards.
• NSF International (NSF): Formerly the National Sanitary Foundation, authorizes the use of the "NSF" mark and logo on certified faucets. The organization tests primarily for compliance with ANSI/NSF 61/9 and rarely for compliance with ASME A112.18.1/CSA B125.1.
• Underwriters Laboratories (UL): Authorizes the use of the "UL" mark and logo on certified faucets.
• Water Quality Association. (WQA): Authorizes the use of the "WQA" mark and logo on certified faucets.