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Birkin bag shoppers suing Hermes expand their antitrust case

Post Time:2024-06-03 Source:Reuters Author:Mike Scarcella Views:

May 31 (Reuters) - U.S. consumers suing French luxury house Hermes (HRMS.PA) 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 Hermes 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 Hermes’ 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 Hermes 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, Hermes called the lawsuit “far-fetched.” Hermes 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.

“Hermes 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, Hermes 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.”

The case is Tina Cavalleri et al v. Hermes International et al, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, No. 3:24-cv-01707-JD.