Following a public comment period, the Federal Trade Commission has approved a final consent agreement settling charges that Sunday Riley Modern Skincare, LLC (Sunday Riley Skincare) and its CEO, Sunday Riley, misled consumers by posting fake reviews of the company’s products online, at the CEO’s direction, and by failing to disclose that the reviewers were company employees.
Sunday Riley Skincare sells a range of cosmetic products at various retailers, including Sephora, a multinational chain of personal care and beauty stores, and on the Sephora.com website. Sephora allows consumers to leave customer reviews of products sold on its website, providing a forum for sharing authentic feedback about the products it sells.
According to the agency’s October 2019 complaint, between November 2015 and August 2017, Sunday Riley Skincare managers, including Ms. Riley, posted reviews of their branded products on the Sephora site using fake accounts created to hide their identities, and requested that other Sunday Riley Skincare employees do the same thing. The FTC alleged that after Sephora removed fake reviews written by Sunday Riley Skincare employees, the company obtained an Express VPN account in an attempt to hide its online activity.
The final order settling the FTC’s charges prohibits Sunday Riley Skincare and Ms. Riley from misrepresenting the status of any endorser or person reviewing a product they are selling. This includes misrepresentations that the endorser or reviewer is an independent or ordinary user of the product. The order also requires that they clearly and conspicuously disclose any unexpected material connection between endorsers and Sunday Riley Skincare, Ms. Riley, or any entity affiliated with the product.
The Commission vote approving the final consent order and letters to public commenters was 3-2, with Commissioners Rebecca Kelly Slaughter and Rohit Chopra voting no. The majority and Commissioner Chopra each issued separate statements. Commissioner Slaughter joined in Commissioner Chopra’s statement. (The staff contact is Michael Ostheimer, Bureau of Consumer Protection, 202-326-2699.)
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