Beauty brand trades night serums for truth serums in FTC settlement

Skincare company Sunday Riley settled a complaint about fraudulent reviews with little more than a slap on the wrist.


October 28, 2019

Last week, the skincare company Sunday Riley agreed to settle a Federal Trade Commission complaint saying it deceived the public by faking online reviews. Some say this settlement could open the 5-star fraud floodgates. 

So, Sunday Riley’s CEO is an actual person named Sunday Riley

In a July 2016 email, Sunday Riley the person sent an email encouraging employees to post positive reviews of Sunday Riley the brand on Sephora.com.

Riley went all-out in her orders. She listed step-by-step instructions for setting up and using a VPN, creating at least 3 separate Sephora accounts, leaving 5-star reviews for Sunday Riley products, and “disliking” negative reviews.

Riley had her reasons for racking up the fake reviews — phony ratings is a growing problem The Hustle has investigated. A Harvard study shows brands that see a Yelp ratings increase of 1 star also see a 5-9% revenue increase.

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The FTC investigated and decided this wasn’t a good look. Sunday Riley settled the FTC complaints by pinky swearing to never post fake reviews again. However, the company did not have to admit to wrongdoing, and it will pay no fines or refunds.

Two FTC commissioners expressed misgivings about the deal, saying that letting Sunday Riley go with just a slap on the wrist might encourage other companies to inflate their online reviews. After all, a little puffery costs considerably less than a traditional advertising campaign.

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