District Attorney in Lowes Case: Don't Fret Using '2x4'

Originally published by: Home Channel NewsSeptember 8, 2014

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In the wake of the recent $1.6 million Lowe’s settlement over the description of dimensional lumber in California, a deputy district attorney involved in the case said that companies are within their rights to describe dimensional lumber in nominal terms, as opposed to actual terms.

But the actual dimensions of lumberyards' and retailers' products must carry muster with the National Institute of Standards and Technology

“If a 2x4 does not meet the NIST standard and they’re advertising it as a 2x4, then they would be in violation of the law,” said Andres Perez, deputy district attorney for the Marin County District Attorney’s Office in San Rafael, California.

One of the allegations in the case against Lowe’s was that certain products “were not in compliance with the minimum size requirements.” The complaint, flied in the Superior Court of California for Marin County, referred to advertising of dimenstional products on in-store shelf tags, flyers, signage, newspapers and on the Internet.

The accepted actual size of a softwood 2x4 is 1.5 in. x 3.5 in. “In other words, if the 2x4 measured 1 in. by 3 in., then you’d have a problem,” Perez said.

In California, it’s not permitted to use the same “nominal” terms to describe composite dimensional products. These composite products require actual dimensions to be used in labeling. 

It is this area -- the composite area of building products -- where Lowe’s originally ran afoul of a routine investigation from the State Division of Measurement Standards, according to sources.

When asked about the settlement, a Lowe’s spokeswoman said the dimensions of the company’s products are not changing -- just the labeling. Using the 2x4 as an example, “our products have always measured 1.5 inches x 3.5 inches,” said Amanda Manna. “The change we are making is that product information will now include the actual dimensions of a product (example, 1.5 inches x 3.5 inches), in addition to the commonly used measurement (example, 2 inches x 4 inches). 

The company did not respond to specific question about the role of composite measurements in the lawsuit.

Earlier this month, a Marin County California judge ordered Lowe’s to pay a $1.6 million settlement over the lawsuit alleging the inaccurate description of structural dimensional building products.

"Both Lowe's and the California DAs agreed that a settlement is in the best interest of all parties. It allows us to continue moving forward with our program to provide both actual and common product dimensions and meet our shared goals,” said Karen Cobb, a Lowe’s spokeswoman, in the announcement of the settlement. 


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