Sunday Riley, the skincare brand that claims to be “powered by science” turns out to actually be powered by fake reviews that have been intentionally posted by employees for nearly two years.
As someone who appreciates a good skincare routine, I am willing to pay a little more for a product if it has glowing reviews. So this situation really pisses me off, as I’m sure it does with a whole lot of other skincare consumers, to find out that these reviews that you base your decision to drop all this money on (up to $158 for a single product of theirs) are fabricated.
Sunday Riley herself, the founder and CEO of the brand, has direct involvement in the scandal. As investigations have revealed, she sent an email to her staff in 2016, advising them to create three fake accounts to post reviews on Sephora’s website to boost sales. She even went as far as advising them on the nature of their language in the reviews, how to create credibility, and how to conceal the IP address. They were also instructed to dislike any negative reviews so that they would get bumped from the website.
Despite efforts to conceal their IP address, the reviews were eventually traced to them.
Now that they are found out, the Federal Trade Commission has been going after them… kind of.
The hearing ended with a very lukewarm settlement that isn’t satisfactory to those critical of the actions that the skincare brand took. The settlement is basically just a slap on the wrist and Sunday Riley saying “I swear I’ll never do it again.” They were not required to admit wrongdoing, provide refunds to customers that they deceived, or forfeit any profits they made as a result of the fraudulent reviews.
I tend to agree with those who say that this is too lenient of a settlement because it literally couldn’t have been more intentional. I mean the CEO sent out an email laying out exactly what to do and saying exactly how it will benefit the company.
The fact that they came out of the hearing nearly unscathed doesn’t do much to deter other companies from doing the same thing in the future. Other companies might take more precautions to make sure their IP address is concealed, but there clearly aren’t many serious legal consequences even if they are found out.
I will say, though, that I foresee this negatively impacting their sales immensely. Clearly, Sunday Riley knows the processes that their customers go through when making decisions to buy or not, but since reviews are so important to them, they are not going to be happy to find out they were fake. I mean, if they were actually good products, why would they even need to fake reviews?
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Hannah Michelle Lambert is the Social Media + Events Coordinator at Worthix, as well as the host of the monthly CX News Recap segment. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan.