Hermès Is Being Sued by Two Shoppers Who Couldn’t Buy a Birkin Bag

An Hermès Birkin is notoriously hard to come by, but two prospective customers have accused the brand of creating an illegal obstacle to buying the coveted handbags.

The French luxury house is the target of a federal class-action lawsuit filed by two shoppers in San Francisco, California, who claim the company violates antitrust laws, SF Gate reported. The customers, identified as Tina Cavalleri and Mark Glinoga, were allegedly told they could not purchase the luxury retailer’s famed, sought-after totes without buying additional Hermès products and accessories first, such as scarves, belts, homewares, and jewelry, according to The New York Times. In the U.S., it is forbidden to bundle goods or tie them into other purchases.

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“The unique desirability, incredible demand, and low supply of Birkin handbags gives [the brand] incredible market power,” the filing states. “Defendants [Hermès] implemented a scheme to exploit this market power by requiring consumers to purchase other, ancillary products from [them] before they will be given an opportunity to purchase a Birkin handbag. With this scheme [the brand was] able to effectively increase the price of Birkin handbags and, thus, the profits that Defendants earn from Birkin handbags.”

Hermès did not immediately respond to Robb Report‘s request for comment.

Introduced in 1984, Birkin bags—which are handmade in France and produced in limited quantities—are renowned for their high price tags and higher desirability; they can cost more than $10,000 at retail and fetch anywhere between $20,000 to $500,000 on the secondary market, SF Gate reported. However, according to the complaint, “consumers cannot simply walk into an Hermès retail store, pick out the Birkin handbag they want and purchase it.” Instead, “only those consumers who are deemed worthy of purchasing a Birkin handbag will be shown a Birkin handbag,” the filing alleges.

The suit also alleges shoppers have the option of buying the bag that’s shown to them by a sales associate, without the option of any further customization. “For all practical purposes, there is no way to order a bag in the style, size, color, leather, and hardware that a consumer wants,” the lawsuit claims. (Hermès is widely known to offer a custom service called Special Order or HSS.) Both Cavalleri and Glinoga are demanding monetary damages and are asking the court to bar Hermès from engaging in its alleged anticompetitive conduct.

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