Hermès Facing Class-Action Lawsuit Over How It Sells Birkins

The process of buying a Birkin bag is far from straightforward — to the point that there are countless TikToks and Instagram Reels dedicated to demystifying it. But now, Hermès is facing a class-action lawsuit in the U.S., accusing the French luxury brand of unfair business practices around the famed accessory.

On Tuesday, plaintiffs Tina Cavalleri and Mark Glinoga filed an anti-trust suit against Hermès in the Northern District of California, alleging that the brand unlawfully required them to buy products from other categories in order to purchase a Birkin, thus exploiting its market power. According to The Fashion Law, the complaint details how the bags are so exclusive, "most consumers will never be shown a Birkin handbag at a Hermès retail store, [as] typically, only those consumers who are deemed worthy of purchasing a Birkin handbag will be shown a Birkin handbag (in a private room)." Per The Business of Fashion, it also cites the company's commission structure for sales associates as playing into the alleged scheme, as they don't receive commissions on Birkin sales, but do for products from other categories.

Cavalleri and Glinoga accuse Hermès of violating the Sherman Antitrust Act (which bars sellers from "tying" products, i.e. "[conditioning] the sale of one product on the buyer's agreement to purchase a separate product or products") and the Cartwright Act (which, the site writes, "prohibits the 'combination' of resources by two or more persons to restrain trade or commerce, or to prevent market competition"), The Fashion Law reports.

While this practice of brands encouraging clients to establish a purchase record before offering its most exclusive or coveted products isn't unique to Hermès and the Birkin (certain luxury watch companies have faced similar accusations), it's arguably the most high-profile and oft-mentioned example of it, especially in the age of social media.

The plaintiffs are calling for injunctive relief and monetary damages, as well as for the federal court to grant the case class-action status, so other consumers who were "exposed to uniform practices and sustained injuries arising out of and caused by [Hermès's] conduct," per The Fashion Law.

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