A group of regional building material supplier associations joined with the Intertek product testing and certification company Thursday to launch the Claim Check Verification Program, an independent program designed to assure that manufacturers can back up their product claims.

Claim Check's most important founders, who used the International Builders' Show in Orlando, Fla., as the launching pad for the third-party program, said their venture owes its birth to concerns over greenwashing and the potential legal liabilities caused by Chinese drywall, as well as to builders' ages-old reluctance to try new products.

Claim check "gives the whole [supply] chain an added level of confidence," Mark Menzer, Intetek's vice president of association affairs and programs development, told reporters.

"This gives the builder a chance to check all the claims about a product," added Bill Tucker, president of the Florida Building Material Association and organizer of the Building Products Retailers Alliance (BPRA), the driving force behind Claim Check. BPRA's seven member associations represent building material dealers in 22 states. (Story). Intertek has facilities worldwide, "so if there's a claim coming from anywhere, our partners can check it at the source," he added.

Here's how Claim Check works:

  • A manufacturer would go to www.claimcheckverified.com, sign in and create a profile.
  • The manufacturer then would upload supporting information that it believes backs up the qualities it's claiming for its products.
  • Intertek–which bills itself as a worldwide network of more than 1,000 laboratories and offices and more than 26,000 people in 100+ countries–then would use its expertise to judge the validity of the manufacturer's assertions. Intertek staff will review the data supporting the claim; whether the data was generated by an accredited, third party laboratory; whether the data is fresh; and whether the claims fulfill internationally recognized standards, such as ISO.
  • Products verified through Claim Check will be listed in a directory, and manufacturers can state in their literature that a product's claims have been Claim Check verified.
  • Other manufacturers have the right to challenge a Claim Check, thus helping police the program.

A manufacturer that signs up for the program must pay a $500 application fee and then a minimum $2,000 evaluation fee per product, Menzer said he expects most evaluations to cost no more than that. There is an annual $500 listing fee per manufacturer and a $1,000 follow-up charge imposed every two years to cover the costs of determining whether the product has changed since it first was verified. There is no cost to builders, dealers, or consumers.

Initially, Claim Check will verify doors, windows, "critical structure products," siding, decking, chemical wood preservatives, and roofing products, its sponsors said.

Tucker said Thursday that building material dealers worked to create Claim Check because so many companies were making so many suspect claims about the green qualities of their products that builders, homeowners, and dealers all were finding it difficult to verify what the manufacturers were advertising.

Meanwhile, he said, homeowners in Florida and other parts of the country discovered that exceptionally high levels of hydrogen sulfide in drywall imported from China was damaging homes and endangering lives. That led to a number of liability suits against the manufacturers. Early last year, Tucker said Florida dealers feared their state's implied warranty law–which Tucker says most states have–might render dealers legally liable for defective products or for green products whose performance didn't match up to their claims. FBMA's lawyer warned Tucker as much. (Story)

The National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA) has sought for years to protect dealers from getting entangled in such issues by urging Congress to pass legislation known as the Innocent Sellers Fairness Act. But that campaign has won scant support in Congress in recent years, and NLBMDA invested little effort promoting the issue in the Democrat-controlled Congress over the past two years.

Through Claim Check and Intertek, dealers will get "a source that would stand with them if there is a claim," Tucker said Thursday.

Founding members of BPRA area the Construction Suppliers Association, which serves Georgia and Alabama; the Florida Building Material Association; the Illinois Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association; the Kentucky Building Material Association; the Northwestern Lumber Association, which serves Wisconsin, Minnesota, the Dakotas, Iowa, and Nebraska; the Southern Building Material Association, which serves the Carolinas, Virginia, and Tennessee; and the Western Building Material Association, which serves dealers in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Alaska.