Retailers including Argos have been ordered to pay £20m to 2,000 people who suffered from chemical burns found in anti-fungal agents in sofas.

Argos, along with furniture chain Walmsleys and other smaller firms, admitted liability for selling the Chinese-made sofas.

There will be another hearing on May 21 when 2,500 further cases would be considered.

The £20m figure includes legal costs, as well as compensation.

Richard Langton, solicitor for law firm Russell Jones and Walker, told the BBC: “People’s lives were put on hold. Some people thought that they were dying, that they had skin cancer.”

Customers of Land of Leather, which went into administration in January 2009, will not receive compensation. Although liability had been admitted, a decision was made by the retailer’s insurers, Zurich, not to pay out on claims relating to products made by the manufacturer Linkwise, citing a breach of their policy.