L.L. Bean to Pay for Recall Delay

Outdoor retailer L.L. Bean Inc., Freeport, ME, agreed to pay a civil penalty of $750,000, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said last week.

The civil penalty settled allegations that L.L. Bean violated the Consumer Product Safety Act because the firm delayed in reporting to the CPSC that two of its backpack child carriers were defective.

The backpack child carriers were used by adults to carry small children. Both were sold through the L.L. Bean Web site, catalogs, and retail stores in Maine, Oregon, New Hampshire and Delaware. The model number W695 carrier was teal green, with gray harnesses and a kickstand. L.L. Bean sold about 13,000 model number W695 carriers for about $95 from January 1993 through March 1995 and recalled them on April 19, 1999.

The model number AC25 carrier was forest green and had gray harnesses and a kickstand. The company sold about 11,800 AC25 carriers for about $95 from January 1997 through October 1998 and recalled them on Dec. 10, 1998.

The CPSC alleged that L.L. Bean delayed in reporting that children can work their way out of the harness and fall through a leg opening or topple out of the top of the carriers. It said L.L. Bean had known of 39 incidents involving the two carriers before the company reported them to the CPSC. One child suffered a concussion and a fractured wrist, and six children suffered contusions, lacerations, bumps or bruises. In addition, four children became entangled in the units' shoulder straps, creating a risk of strangulation.

In agreeing to settle the matter, L.L. Bean denied that it violated the Consumer Product Safety Act or any other law administered by the CPSC. Instead, it characterized the delay as a misunderstanding of the CPSC’s rules. A spokeswoman for L.L. Bean said the company did not fight the fine because it agreed with the commission’s goal of reducing the risk to children.

In addition, the company said it initially thought some customers might have been using the backpacks improperly because the company product testers did not experience problems.

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