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Some beauty drama and this time, it doesn’t involve YouTube’s top beauty gurus: Cult-favorite skincare brand Sunday Riley, the one behind the popular Good Genes serum, has officially settle charges with the Federal Trade Commissions (FTC) stemming from allegations made last year that the skincare brand posted glowing product reviews on Sephora’s website to boost sales.
According to the complaint filed by the FTC, “On multiple occasions between November 2015 and August 2017, Sunday Riley Skincare managers, including Respondent Sunday Riley, posted reviews of Sunday Riley brand cosmetic products on the Sephora website using fake accounts created just for that purpose or requested that other employees do so.” The FTC charged the brand and the CEO and founder of the same name with two violations: False or misleading endorsement claims and deceptive failure to disclose material connections with endorsers.
The investigation began after a Reddit user who claimed to be a Sunday Riley employee created a thread on the platform titled “Sunday Riley Employee: We Write Fake Sephora Reviews” back in October 2018, in which the user said Sunday Riley is “an awful place to work” and claimed that employees “were forced to write fake reviews for our products on an ongoing basis, which came direct from Sunday Riley herself and her Head of Sales.” The user attached an email addressed to Sunday Riley employees that encouraged staffers to “write at least three reviews” for the brand’s Saturn Sulfur Acne Treatment Mask and Space Race Fight Acne Kit.
Popular Instagram beauty account @esteelaundry took a screengrab of a comment left by Sunday Riley, in which the brand admitted that “we did encourage people to post positive reviews at the launch of this product, consistent with their experiences. There are a lot of reasons for doing that, including the fact that competitors will often post negative reviews of products to swing opinion.”
However, Sunday Riley is getting away scot-free, as the settlement just asks the brand to promise not to fabricate product reviews in the future. FTC Commissioners Rohit Chopra and Rebecca Kelly Slaughter issued an official dissent explaining that “the proposed settlement is unlikely to deter other would-be wrongdoers.”
“This settlement sends the wrong message to the marketplace. Dishonest firms may come to conclude that posting fake reviews is a viable strategy, given the proposed outcome here,” the commissioners continued. “Honest firms, who are the biggest victims of this fraud, may be wondering if they are losing out by following the law. Consumers may come to lack confidence that reviews are truthful.”