Hermes is Being Sued in California

Hermès Is Being Sued in California

How difficult should it be to buy a Birkin? That’s the question on everybody’s mouths right now, as a class action lawsuit against Hermes has just been filed in California. Yep, you’ve heard it right. On March 19th, two California residents: Tina Cavalleri and Mark Glinoga, filed a class-action lawsuit against the brand, claiming that it unlawfully limits customers by only allowing those with “sufficient purchase history” with the brand to buy the iconic handbag.

Hermes California Lawsuit, Dissected

According to the lawsuit, Hermes sales associates require consumers to purchase other, ancillary products before giving them a chance to purchase the Birkin. Those include everything from ready-to-wear and shoes to scarves and fine jewelry. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Well, it surely isn’t anything new for those of us who shop at Hermès. Quite frankly, I think at this point everyone in the luxury industry knows that in order to be offered the Birkin you also have to buy other things from the brand. I mean, this has been the topic of discussion for ages!

But for now, back to the lawsuit! Plaintiffs claim that by requiring customers to purchase other products before giving them a chance to purchase the Birkin, Hermès violate antitrust law, by engaging in a practice called “tying” – that is, selling of a certain product under a condition that the customer also buys other products from the same business. Put simply, it is illegal for the company to force you to buy other products from the brand in order to gain access to another product (at least, here in the States). And they most certainly know about this at Hermès, as last year, a representative from the brand told BoF the following: “Hermès strictly prohibits any sales of certain products as a condition to the purchase of others”. Though, he has also added that Hermès stores are encouraged to vet buyers and attribute low-stock bags to only “real clients” as the company seeks to minimize resale of its products through the secondary market. I guess here you have the answer for why they don’t want to sell the Birkin’s to some people!

Obviously, the plaintiffs will now have to prove the claim of “tying” in court. How could they possibly do this? Well, the only thing I can personally think of, is showing a text from a Hermès SA, or a recorded conversation where a Hermès SA tells them that they have to buy other products from the brand in order to unlock the Birkin. However, in this instance, Hermès can respond by blaming everything on the SA, who allegedly do not earn commissions on the Birkin (and other quota bag) sales. 

I guess we shall wait and see how this plays out. Rest assured that I will keep you updated!

xoxo’s, Masha S.

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