Birkin Bag Shoppers Suing Hermes Expand Their Antitrust Case

Birkin Bag Antitrust case

U.S. consumers suing French luxury house Hermes have expanded their lawsuit, accusing the company of forcing buyers to spend thousands of dollars on other products before allowing them to purchase one of its famed Birkin bags. On Thursday, another California resident joined the lawsuit in San Francisco federal court, becoming the third named plaintiff in the proposed class action initially filed in March.

The lawsuit claims Hermes only offers customers with a “sufficient purchase history” the chance to buy a Birkin bag, which are handmade and can cost thousands of dollars. The newly amended complaint adds more details about the purported market for luxury handbags, aiming to counter 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 states.

Hermes and its legal team at Latham & Watkins have not immediately responded to requests for comment. Lawyers for the plaintiffs declined to comment.

In a filing last month, Hermes called the lawsuit “far-fetched.” Hermes asserted that customers without a purchase history can still buy a Birkin and argued that such a requirement would not be illegal. “Hermes faces clear competition from different sellers on the wide range of products it sells,” the company said.

Thursday’s amended complaint argues that “the Birkin bag’s exclusivity, limited availability, and iconic status make it difficult to find a perfect substitute.” The plaintiffs claim that 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 references statements Hermes made in a 2022 trademark lawsuit against artist Mason Rothschild. In that case, Hermes described the Birkin’s “mysterious waitlist, intimidating price tags, and extreme scarcity” as factors that have made it a highly covetable “holy grail” handbag that doubles as an investment or store of value.