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Lawsuit against Birkin bag maker Hermès is “a nonstarter” in antitrust law, Northeastern expert says

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image of customer holding orange hermes gift bag with logo on the front of bag

The price tag isn’t the only barrier shoppers have to overcome to buy the famed Birkin handbag, according to a lawsuit filed in San Francisco. Rather, plaintiffs allege that luxury retailer Hermès is violating antitrust law by making customers buy other goods at the retailer’s stores to qualify for buying a Birkin.  Northeastern University law expert John Kwoka says that the case is “probably a nonstarter on antitrust grounds.” “I just don’t think this is going to go anywhere,” says Kwoka, the Neal F. Finnegan distinguished professor of economics.

Birkin handbags, which are handcrafted from leather by artisans in France, are named after the late actress Jane Birkin and can cost well over $100,000. New bags are only sold at Hermès’ retail stores. But the lawsuit, filed in March, alleges shoppers must have “a sufficient purchase history of Hermès’ ancillary products … before they will be given an opportunity to purchase a Birkin bag.” As such, Hermès “unlawfully tied” the sale of Birkin handbags to the sale of other products, in violation of antitrust laws, the lawsuit alleges. Kwoka doesn’t see much of a case. “You do have to purchase something else,” Kwoka says. “But in order for that to be anticompetitive in the meaning of both economics and—roughly speaking—the law, you have to prove two other things, and the plaintiffs here seem altogether unlikely that they’re going to be able to do that.”

Read more at Northeastern Global News.

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