Birkin Bag Shoppers Suing Hermès Expand Antitrust Case


US consumers suing French luxury house Hermès have broadened their lawsuit accusing the company of forcing buyers to spend thousands of dollars on other products before they can purchase one of the company’s famed Birkin bags.

Another California resident joined the lawsuit in San Francisco federal court on Thursday, becoming the third named plaintiff in the proposed class action that was first lodged in March.

The lawsuit claimed Hermès only gives customers with “sufficient purchase history” a chance to buy a Birkin bag, which are handmade and can cost thousands of dollars.

The newly amended complaint also added more details about the purported market for luxury handbags, in a bid to defeat Hermès’ initial arguments seeking to dismiss the case.

“The nominal retail price of a Birkin bag is a facade, masking a hidden lottery system that forces consumers to purchase substantial amounts of Hermès ancillary products to ‘qualify’ for the mere opportunity to buy a Birkin,” the amended lawsuit said.

Hermes and its legal team at Latham & Watkins did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Lawyers for the plaintiffs declined to comment.

In a filing last month, Hermès called the lawsuit “far-fetched.” Hermès told the court that customers without a purchase history can still buy a Birkin, and it argued that such a requirement would not be illegal in any case.

“Hermès faces clear competition from different sellers on the wide range of products it sells,” the company said.

Thursday’s amended complaint said “the Birkin bag’s exclusivity, limited availability, and iconic status make it difficult to find a perfect substitute.”

The buyers said offerings from rival luxury brands such as Gucci, Prada and Louis Vuitton “lack the unique brand identity and exclusivity that define the Birkin bag.”

The new complaint also pointed to statements that Hermes made in a 2022 trademark lawsuit it brought against artist Mason Rothschild.

In that case, Hermès said the Birkin’s “mysterious waitlist, intimidating price tags and extreme scarcity have made it a highly covetable ‘holy grail’ handbag that doubles as an investment or store of value.”

By Mike Scarcella

Learn more:

Who Gets to Buy a Birkin Bag?

Hermès’ elusive sales strategy is at the centre of a new legal challenge for the French luxury giant. BoF breaks down the practices under scrutiny and what the suit could mean for the fashion industry at large.

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