Amsterdam woman targets Sherwin-Williams surcharge in potential class-action lawsuit

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ALBANY — An Amsterdam woman is suing Sherwin-Williams, saying the paint manufacturer gave no warning there would be a 4% surcharge on her purchases at the company’s local retail shop.

She’s joined in the action by a Michigan man with a similar complaint about his purchases at a Michigan store. Their attorneys filed the lawsuit Wednesday in federal court in Albany, and they are seeking class-action status for thousands of other customers also assessed the “supply chain surcharge.”

They seek a court order barring the practice, restitution, compensatory damages and punitive damages.

According to the complaint, Maureen E. Dunham of Amsterdam bought two gallons of paint at the Amsterdam Sherwin-Williams store on Nov. 9, 2021, and was assessed a 4% surcharge, $4.65, bringing her total bill to $119.59.

Frank Novak of Farmington Hills, Mich., paid a $1.60 surcharge on a gallon of paint and other items at the Sherwin-Williams store in Commerce Township, Mich., on Jan. 15, 2022, bringing his total tab to $43.82.

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In both instances, the lawsuit asserts, there was no indication that a surcharge would be imposed, and neither customer was aware of the company’s “deceptive bait-and-switch scheme of covertly tacking” the surcharge onto purchases. Had they known, they would not have made the purchase, the lawsuit states.

Sherwin-Williams is based in Cleveland and has 61,000-plus employees, 4,700-plus U.S. and Canadian retail outlets and 137 manufacturing and distribution facilities.

It declined comment on the lawsuit Thursday.

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The complaint against the company states and alleges:

  • In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and supply-chain shortages, Sherwin-Williams decided to shift its rapidly rising manufacturing costs to customers, but chose to do so through a surcharge revealed after the purchase, rather than transparently raising its list prices. This is “deceptive and illegal,” as it prevents accurate price comparisons.
  • Sherwin-Williams does not disclose the surcharge in advance of levying it, unlike most companies affected by supply chain disruptions, which have instead transparently raised prices.
  • Custom orders like paint cannot be returned once mixed, so the customer is stuck paying the surcharge if they only learn of it by seeing it at the bottom of their receipt.
  • The surcharge is applied to the price of goods, thus increasing the sales tax, as well.
  • Sherwin-Williams violated New York General Business Law and the Michigan Consumer Protection Act by failing to disclose the surcharge.
  • The company’s actions constitute unjust enrichment of itself and/or breach of contract with customers.

Attorneys for the defendants are seeking a jury trial.

The company did mention the 4% surcharge in a Sept. 8, 2021, message to investors, and said it would be in effect from Sept. 20 to Dec. 31.

The surcharge apparently was extended — Novak’s receipt referenced a Jan. 31, 2022, sunset.

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