North Carolina-based Lowe's Home Centers has been ordered to pay $1.6 million to settle a lawsuit by prosecutors from Marin and four other counties alleging inaccurate and misleading advertising, the district attorney's office announced Wednesday.
The settlement, ordered by Marin Superior Court Judge Paul M. Haakenson, is the culmination of a civil enforcement action filed in Marin Superior Court and led by the district attorneys of Marin, Los Angeles, Monterey, San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties. It was alleged Lowe's stores throughout the state unlawfully advertised structural dimensional building products for sale, such as lumber, using incorrect product dimensions. In some instances, Lowe's advertisements restated misleading or inaccurate product dimensions provided by the manufacturers or suppliers.
"Consumers should expect when making product purchases that retailers are providing accurate information especially when misinformation could adversely affect building projects that more often than not rely on precise measurements," said District Attorney Ed Berberian.
Karen Cobb, spokesperson for Lowe's, said in a statement: "Periodically, representatives of local Weights and Measures departments visit retailers and they expressed concerns about common product measurements, such as a 2x4 piece of lumber. These visits were initiated as a result of standards set by California's Division of Measurement Standards, which relies upon guidance from the National Institute of Standards and Technology concerning the sale of certain commodity products.
"Historically, Lowe's provided information about product dimensions received from vendors. Moving forward, customers will now be able to locate product by actual and common dimensions as provided by vendors for certain building products. For example, for a piece of lumber commonly known as a 2X4, customers will see both the common name (2x4) and the actual product dimensions (1.5 x 3.5 inches).
"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."
Under the settlement, Lowe's is required to immediately remove products from sale or correct false, misleading, deceptive or inaccurate product descriptions. Lowe's must pay $1.47 million in civil penalties and costs of the investigation. An additional $150,000 will be paid to fund further consumer protection-related activities including quality control and price verification programs conducted by the California Department of Food and Agriculture. The store will be bound under the terms of a permanent injunction prohibiting similar future violations of law.
According to the district attorney's office, Lowe's was cooperative throughout the investigation and has implemented enhanced policies and procedures designed to eliminate the use of misleading or inaccurate product dimensions in their advertisements.
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