How the Lowe's 2x4 Case Has Affected Its Labeling

by Ryan Banks November 19, 2014

ProSales  - November 10, 2014 BY Craig Webb

Visit to California store reveals changes as a result of the $1.6 million complaint

Aside from paying $1.6 million, one of the biggest changes resulting at Lowe's from what's been called "the 2x4 case" involves changes in how the big-box dealer labels its building materials. How is that going? To find out, PROSALES visited the Lowe's store in San Bruno, Calif., on Nov. 4 and photographed some of the labels in the lumber section. That visit shows Lowe's already has already begun making adjustments.

The settlement order and final judgment filed on Aug. 27 lists three main rules for the retailer to follow going forward. The first is that common descriptions must be followed by actual dimensions and labeled as such. "For instance, a 2x4 must be followed with a disclaimer that the wood is actually 1.5-inches by 3.5-inches and include a phrase equal or similar to "actual dimensions," the ruling said.

Early signs indicate that Lowe's is moving in this direction. Here is an example:

Next, the agreement states that a product's "popular or common product description," like the word 2x4, must be "clearly described as 'popular name,' 'popular description,' or 'commonly called,'" This remains a work in progress for some labels:

And third, dimension descriptions are required to use the "inch-pound unit," meaning they must include abbreviations such as "in., ft., or yd.," and can't use symbols like ' or '' to denote measurements. For instance:

And then there are cases in which the net result could mystify some customers:

The case stems from an Aug. 26 complaint by district attorney's offices of five California counties alleging in part that Lowe's erred by using nominal terms, such as 2x4, for products that actually should be described in more specific terms. Only certain wood products listed by the National Institute of Standards & Technology and the quasi-governmental American Lumber Standard Committee can be described in nominal terms. (Court documents also hint that Lowe's might have sold products that failed to meet minimal standards for nominal sizes; see details.)
The case affects only Lowe's stores in California. But the West Coast Lumber and Building Material Association has urged its member dealers in California to take an extra look at the documents that sawmills send them describing their shipments, as well as cast an additional glance on the shipment to assure that what's described matches what was sent.

Ryan Banks
Ryan Banks

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