Recently, a Superior Court Judge named Paul M. Haakenson (Republican, appointed by Governor Schwarzenegger) in Marin County laid out the terms of a settlement order and final judgment against Lowe’s on how it must label building products in California. The settlement came as a result of a case involving claims by the Marin County district attorney, Edward S. Berberian.

D.A. Berberian brought the civil consumer protection action against the retailer because he felt that “Lowes was unlawfully advertising structural dimensional building products for sale.” This case involved the labeling of 2×4’s. Yes. I said 2×4’s.

Berberian went on to say, “consumers should expect when making product purchases that retailers are providing accurate information.” He continued, “Especially when misinformation could adversely affect building projects that more often than not rely on precise measurements.” I am not a contractor, but something tells me contractors know this stuff.

So from now on when you visit a Lowe’s and you are looking for a 2×4, you will see the common name (2×4) and the actual product dimensions (1.5×3.5 inches). What a relief. I don’t know about you, but I can certainly sleep easier knowing that this issue has been resolved.

But here is the kicker: according to the judgment, the retailer was ordered to pay $1.47 million in civil penalties and the costs of the investigation and an additional $150,000 to fund further consumer protection related activities. Where are those monies going? A fund to protect consumers from further lumber labeling issues?

Come on California! We can do better than this, can’t we? Examples like this demonstrate everything that is wrong in the State of California. Instead of encouraging businesses to grow and expand here, we make them go through the legal wringer for selling common lumber goods using a “common name.” This case makes it clear why we need legal reform and common sense to prevail.