LL Bean is being sued for changing its famously generous return policy

The Maine-based company says the suit misrepresents the new policy.

Finished boots sit on a conveyor belt before being packaged at the L.L. Bean Inc. manufacturing facility in Brunswick, Maine, on Sept. 9, 2015. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Shiho Fukada.
Finished boots sit on a conveyor belt before being packaged at the L.L. Bean manufacturing facility in Brunswick, Maine. –Shiho Fukada / Bloomberg

A new lawsuit filed this week claims that L.L. Bean’s recent changes to its generous return policy illegally renege on the Maine company’s promise to past customers. L.L. Bean says that isn’t at all the case.

The Freeport-based outdoor retailer announced last week that it was imposing a one-year limit on most returns, after the company said a “small, but growing number” of customers were abusing its famous decades-old practice of honoring unlimited returns on its lifetime-warrantied products. However, Illinois resident Victor Bondi, who describes himself as a “loyal customer” of L.L. Bean, says the change is “deceptive and unfair.”

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In a class action lawsuit filed Monday in federal court in Illinois, Bondi argues that he and more than 100 other customers represented in the suit have been illegally “deprived” of a benefit that was priced into their L.L. Bean purchase.

The lawsuit says that Bondi and others made purchases based on the company’s unconditional lifetime return policy and that, having lost that perk, they now seek at least $5 million in damages. Alternatively, Bondi wants the company to honor the original policy under which he and others made their purchases.

Good news for Bondi: L.L. Bean says it is already doing that. Carolyn Beem, a spokeswoman for the company, says the suit misrepresents their new policy, since it does not apply to purchases made before the change.

“L.L.Bean products bought prior to Feb. 9, 2018 will not be subject to the new one-year restriction,” Beem told the Bangor Daily News.

Beem said the company has consistently told customers the new return policy only applies to purchases made since the change. However, proof of purchase will still be required for items bought before last Friday, she said.

L.L. Bean’s full updated return policy can be viewed on its website.

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Bondi’s legal team did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday.