Judge tosses lawsuit over L.L. Bean's limited guarantee
- A U.S. federal court dismissed a lawsuit against L.L. Bean regarding changes to its longtime guarantee, which the retailer restricted early this year by moving from a liberal lifetime guarantee to a one-year return policy that requires proof of purchase.
- U.S. District Judge Robert W. Gettleman of the Northern District of Illinois, in dismissing the case, sided with L.L. Bean, which argued that the plaintiff, Victor Bondi, didn’t suffer any injury from the new policy and therefore needed no redress, according to court documents.
- Bondi had argued, as do plaintiffs in three other lawsuits against the retailer, that he purchased items from L.L. Bean under the old warranty, so that the change violated their bargain. The change, however, doesn't apply to any item purchased before it was announced.
As cases go, this one was something of a slam dunk — the court said the plaintiff had not suffered any damages.
It's not likely others will prevail, either, but these lawsuits do show how drastic Bean's change is for some of its most loyal customers. Executive Chairman Shawn Gorman stunned them with the reversal of its longstanding liberal return policy for used or damaged merchandise, saying in a February letter to customers that, while the company would work "to reach a fair solution" if a product a year old or older turns out to be defective, in most cases customers have just one year to return something and need proof of purchase.
Previously, the retailer would accept most returns, even years after purchase, with or without a receipt, in exchange for a replacement of the same item or the most comparable one or a gift card reflecting the last known price of the return. But in the age of social media and retail arbitrage, that was being abused 15% of the time, CEO Stephen Smith told the Portland Press Herald — double the rate a few years ago.
L.L. Bean didn't immediately return Retail Dive's request for comment. But spokesperson Carolyn Beem told the Bangor Daily News last month that the retailer "is very pleased with the recent ruling granting our motion to dismiss the Illinois case in its entirety."
"As we have maintained from the outset, this suit is without merit and the complaint misstated L.L.Bean's policies," she said. "Products purchased prior to Feb. 9, 2018, are not subject to the new one-year restriction on returns. This plaintiff did not claim to be dissatisfied with his L.L.Bean purchase, was never denied a refund, and therefore has no basis on which to pursue this case."
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