- Associated Press - Thursday, November 5, 2015

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - Lowe’s Home Centers LLC will refund more than $1 million to customers who were overcharged flooring installation fees, according to a settlement reached with New York state.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said on Thursday that Lowe’s, with 64 New York stores, overcharged 16,000 customers with a deceptive sales practice that it has since agreed to halt. The retailer had offered installation of carpeting, tile, wood and laminate flooring by third-party contractors at square-foot rates that were applied to materials bought, not those actually installed.

“When consumers shop for home installation services, they deserve to be dealt with honestly and fairly and not to be misled by deceptive sales practices that conceal the true cost of a service,” Schneiderman said. “We expect others who advertise for flooring installation to follow the model practices outlined in today’s agreement.”

The attorney general’s office said it’s investigating the practices of other home center retailers.

Under the agreement, signed last week, the Mooresville, North Carolina, company will return up to $1.1 million in cash refunds and pay $900,000 to the state for its investigation. New York customers who paid the fees from 2009 to 2012 are eligible.

The company denied the attorney general’s finding that it engaged in deceptive practices.

Lowe’s said that in 2012, it began making detailed written descriptions in flooring agreements and advertisements nationally. It has already mailed notices to customers affected by the settlement, which applies to New York stores.

“Most manufacturers recommend that customers purchase more product than the actual size of the room so that the flooring can be installed properly and to meet the customer’s design expectations,” company spokeswoman Karen Cobb said. That includes extra flooring to match seams, patterns and unique room characteristics, based on the installer’s assessment, she said.

The attorney general’s office found that Lowe’s installers typically added 10 to 20 percent excess flooring to their measurements of the actual area covered. The larger amounts were ordered by Lowe’s, and the installation fees per square foot were based on that higher number.

“Lowe’s did not typically explain to customers that the installation fee also applied to the material in excess of the actual square footage area,” according to the settlement agreement, called an assurance of discontinuance. “Lowe’s shall fully disclose how its ‘per square foot’ installation charges are calculated.”

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This story has been corrected to show the company’s formal name is Lowe’s Home Centers LLC, not Lowe’s Home Center LLC.


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