Editor's Note: Please see an updated story on this issue.

Lowe's has new rules regarding how it can label building products in California. A Superior Court judge laid out terms by which the retailer must advertise its 2x4s and other dimensional materials in a $1.6 million settlement order and final judgement filed on August 27. The order, brought on as part of a civil consumer protection action, lists three main rules for the retailer to follow going forward:

  • "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."
  • "Popular or common product description," like the word 2x4, must be "clearly described as 'popular name,' 'popular description,' or 'commonly called.'"
  • 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.

The order, handed down by Judge Paul M. Haakenson, came as a response to a case involving claims by the Marin County, Calif., district attorney's office that the retailer "unlawfully advertised structural dimensional building products for sale."
According to the judgement, the retailer was ordered to pay $1.47 million in civil penalties and costs of the investigation, and an additional $150,000 to fund further consumer protection-related activities.

Lowe's spokesperson Amanda Manna said the company has begun to conform to the product description requirements in nearly 100 of its stores across California.

"Consumers should expect when making product purchases that retailers are providing accurate information," said Marin County District Attorney Edward S. Berberian. "Especially when misinformation could adversely affect building projects that more often than not rely on precise measurements."