French luxury design house Hermès is facing a class action lawsuit in California, US over alleged violation of antitrust laws in sales practices for its iconic Birkin handbags.  

The lawsuit has been filed by two shoppers, Tina Cavalleri and Mark Glinoga. The plaintiffs allege that Hermès only allows customers with a significant purchase history or purchase profile with the company to buy the coveted bags.  

A Birkin handbag is considered a status symbol around the world and can cost more than $100,000, Bloomberg has reported. Handcrafted by French artisans, the bags are renowned for their exclusivity and high price point.  

The availability of Birkin handbags is conditional upon customers purchasing ancillary products from the company. 

The plaintiffs argue that Hermès’ policy of tying the purchase of the high-status product to the purchase of other luxury clothing and accessory items from the company constitutes unfair business practice and an antitrust violation.  

They claim that customers are coerced into buying other Hermès products without then being able to purchase a Birkin bag, despite having spent thousands of dollars with the company. 

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Tina Cavalleri was allegedly prevented from purchasing the Birkin bag in September 2022, and was told that the bags were reserved for “clients who consistently support the Hermès business.”  

The second plaintiff, Mark Glinoga, also alleged that he was repeatedly told to purchase additional items and accessories to be considered for a Birkin bag. 

The lawsuit also targets the compensation structure for Hermès sales associates, which the lawsuit claims perpetuates the restrictive sales strategy. 

The plaintiffs are seeking restitution, damages and a court order to change Hermès’ sales practices.  

The case has been filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California. 

In October 2023, Hermès expanded its presence in Asia with the opening of a new store in China and a fully renovated store in Japan.