Hermès accused of violating antitrust law by only selling Birkins to ‘worthy’ customers

A new class action lawsuit in California accuses Hermès of violating antitrust law by only selling its iconic luxury Birkin handbag to customers with a sufficient purchase history of other items.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in San Francisco on Tuesday, claims sale associates are pushing customers to buy Hermès’s ancillary products — merchandise publicly available for purchase, such as scarves, jewelry, shoes, home goods — to gain an opportunity to buy the exclusive item.

“Typically, only those consumers who are deemed worthy of purchasing a Birkin handbag will be shown a Birkin handbag (in a private room). The chosen consumer will be given the opportunity to purchase the specific Birkin handbag which they are shown,” the lawsuit says, adding that customers cannot then order a different Birkin handbag that might better suit their style preferences.

Hermès encourages sales associates to take advantage of the exclusivity of the bag — which the lawsuit describes as “an icon of fashion” — and use the prospect of being selected to drive the purchase of other merchandise.

“These sales associates are directed by Defendants to only offer Birkin handbags to consumers who have established a sufficient ‘purchase history’ or ‘purchase profile’ with Defendants of Defendants’ ancillary products such as shoes, scarves, belts, jewelry and home goods,” the lawsuit says.

“Only once a consumer has a sufficient purchase history or purchase profile with Defendants, will the consumer be offered the opportunity to purchase a Birkin handbag,” the lawsuit continued.

The Hill has reached out to Hermès for comment.

The class-action lawsuit was brought by two plaintiffs and sought class-action status for what they say are “thousands of members” who have been allegedly harmed by similar alleged practices. One plaintiff “spent tens of thousands of dollars at Hermès, and had been coerced into purchasing Ancillary Products in order to obtain access to Hermès Birkin bags.”

When that plaintiff wanted to purchase a second Birkin handbag, according to the lawsuit, they were told specialty bags were going to “clients who have been consistent in supporting  our business.”

The second plaintiff tried multiple times to purchase a Birkin handbag but “was told on each occasion he needed to purchase other items and accessories.”

The class-action complaint is asking the court to block Hermès from engaging in the alleged actions. It also seeks an unspecified amount of monetary damages and restitution to be awarded.

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