Orgell sues Chopard for ‘discriminatory’ practices, seeks $1.2 million

Beverly Hills, Calif., jeweler David Orgell has sued Chopard USA and its parent Chopard & Cie S.A., the Swiss luxury watch and jewelry maker, for alleged “unlawful, unfair, and discriminatory business practices.” The California retail jeweler, a Rodeo Drive fixture for 47 years, is seeking more than $1.2 million in damages.

According to the complaint, filed Feb. 25 in California Superior Court, Chopard opened a retail boutique next to Orgell in 2002 and in 2004 terminated its exclusive dealer agreement with Orgell. The California jewelry company claims those and other alleged actions are part of “an overall anticompetitive scheme” by Chopard to eliminate Orgell as an authorized dealer and promote its own boutique.

Chopard USA couldn’t be reached for comment at press time.

The Orgell company had been the authorized retailer of Chopard watches and jewelry products on Rodeo Drive since 1996, it says, and was one of the first in Southern California to stock and sell Chopard jewelry and watches. It contends it developed “a substantial clientele” for the Chopard brand, introduced almost every new [Chopard] collection in the U.S. market, created heightened demand for Chopard’s luxury products in the Beverly Hills, Calif., area, and devoted substantial selling space exclusively to Chopard products. In 1998, the company dedicated an entire “Chopard Corner” with full glass windows facing Rodeo Drive, to promote Chopard products.

In early 2001, Orgell says Chopard asked it to sign a revised “authorized retailer” agreement which allegedly substantially altered some terms. Orgell refused, but continued to promote and sell Chopard products. “The exclusive authorized dealer/retailers arrangement continued in practice and effect for over three years,” it contends.

In 2002, says the complaint, Chopard opened a store on the same side of the street as Orgell, just 36 feet away, selling “the same Chopard products that Orgell was authorized to sell.” The suit says Orgell “repeatedly voiced its objection” to Chopard management.

After the boutique opened, claims the suit, Orgell no longer received the same national or co-op advertising support from Chopard, and also allegedly tightened credit and payment terms.

In March 2005, Orgell was told by Chopard it could no longer sell its products, effective June 30, 2004, when Chopard terminated its agreement with Orgell, says the lawsuit. Orgell says no reason was given, and that no other authorized dealers in Southern California were apparently terminated.