Skip to main content
Open this photo in gallery:

A Hermes Silver Metallic Chevre Birkin 30 bag up for auction at Sotheby's in New York City.Roselle Chen/Reuters

French luxury house Hermes has been sued in California over claims it unlawfully allows only customers with “sufficient purchase history” with the company to buy its famed Birkin handbags.

Hermes is violating antitrust law by “tying” the sale of one item to the purchase of another, two California residents alleged in the proposed federal class-action lawsuit filed on Tuesday in San Francisco.

The company’s sales associates are driving the scheme by pushing customers to buy shoes, scarves, jewelry and other items to gain an opportunity to buy a Birkin, the lawsuit said.

Hermes and attorneys for the plaintiffs did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The lawsuit calls the Birkin handbags, long seen as a status symbol, an “icon of fashion.”

Consumers cannot purchase a Birkin online from Hermes, and the leather bags, which are handcrafted and can cost thousands of dollars each, are not displayed for sale in the company’s retail stores, according to the lawsuit.

“Typically, only those consumers who are deemed worthy of purchasing a Birkin handbag will be shown a Birkin handbag (in a private room),” the lawsuit claimed.

Hermes sales associates do not earn commissions on Birkin bag sales and are instructed to use the handbags “as a way to coerce consumers to purchase ancillary products,” according to the complaint.

The lawsuit said it was seeking class action status for thousands of U.S. consumers who bought Hermes goods or were asked to buy them in order to purchase a Birkin.

Hermes operates about 43 stores in the United States, including eight in California.

The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified monetary damages and a court order barring Hermes’ allegedly anticompetitive practices.

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe