When cult skincare brand Sunday Riley was outed on Reddit for encouraging staff to pen fake reviews on beauty retailer Sephora’s website, fans were shocked – and rightly so.
These reviews are what convince us as consumers either to spend our hard-earned money on a product or to leave it in the basket. Skincare obsessives worldwide place their trust in online retailers to feature honest judgements from people who have tried and tested the products in question.
It wasn’t long before the accusations on Reddit prompted an investigation by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC). According to the BBC, the inquiry concluded that brand founder, Sunday Riley had pointed staff in the direction of Sephora’s website to leave false reviews. An email quoted in the FTC investigation also mentioned that staff were encouraged to “dislike” negative reviews so that they would eventually be removed from the site.
This week, it emerged that Sunday Riley managed to avoid a fine from the FTC. Instead, the company was reprimanded and charged with two violations of the Federal Trade Commission Act. A settlement was made to ban Sunday Riley (the company) and Ms Riley herself from posting false online reviews in the future.
Understandably, consumers weren’t happy about being deceived by the brand and the FTC’s rather lenient decision, and took to Sunday Riley’s Instagram page to vent their frustration. Underneath a post advertising the brand’s new A+ High Dose Retinoid Serum, one Instagram user wrote: “I’m really disappointed. I have numerous Sunday Riley products. I didn’t know anyone who used the line because it’s expensive. I trusted those reviews to help guide me and to find out that Sunday Riley herself encouraged her people to post fake reviews, it’s very upsetting. These products are great. They speak for themselves. You didn’t need to do this. I’ll think twice before I purchase any more Sunday Riley.”
Another customer commented: “Disappointed in this brand’s behaviour and outcome of the investigation. If you want to keep your loyal customers and build your consumer base in future, I would highly recommend issuing an apology for this behaviour. I will not be using your products if you can’t be honest about what you did and apologise for it.”