Sunday Riley settles with FTC over fake review allegations
Texas-based skincare brand Sunday Riley has settled with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) after it was accused of posting fake reviews on Sephora’s e-commerce platform for nearly two years.
The complaint, filed by the FTC on Monday, accused Sunday Riley employees of creating the fake reviews between 2015 and 2017, in an effort to boost the brand’s sales on Sephora’s website.
The FTC began to investigate the brand after seeing a Reddit post from October 2018, made by a user who claimed to be a former Sunday Riley employee. In the post, the Reddit user leaked what they said was an email from the company, which encouraged employees to post at least three reviews for the product ‘Saturn’ and “some” for the product ‘Space Race’ the following week. The email further instructed employees to use a VPN, so that the reviews could not be traced back to the company’s IP address.
"The Commission's investigation confirmed the whistleblower's claim and found that the scheme to generate fake reviews of Sunday Riley products involved Ms. Riley herself," FTC commissioners, Rohit Chopra and Rebecca Kelly Slaughter, said in a letter, referring to the brand’s namesake founder, Sunday Riley.
"Rather than relying on satisfied customers to generate real buzz about her products, she directed her employees to write glowing reviews and bury negative ones.”
While the settlement means that Sunday Riley has agreed to not create fake reviews in the future, it does not require the brand to admit to any wrongdoing, including to the writing of fake reviews in the past.
According to a CNN report, Sunday Riley interns were asked as recently as April 2018 to make fake Sephora accounts and write reviews of the brand’s skincare products.
The Reddit post was later re-posted on Instagram, prompting the company to reply.
"The simple and official answer to this Reddit post is that yes, this email was sent by a former employee to several members of our company," Sunday Riley said via Instagram. "At one point, we did encourage people to post positive reviews at the launch of this product, consistent with their experiences."
Sunday Riley is not required to issue refunds to any customers as a result of the settlement.
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