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American cosmetic company Sunday Riley was found fabricating positive reviews of its products for two years.
The company’s fraudulent actions were revealed through a former employee who leaked photos of Sunday Riley e-mails with instructions on how to create fake accounts and write online reviews.
The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) launched an investigation following this revelation. The FTC established that employees had been assigned to write positive reviews of Sunday Riley products instead of gaining actual feedback from satisfied customers. Sunday Riley had also ordered employees to use virtual private networks to avoid being traced back to the company. All of these were done to boost company sales.
After the investigation, the FTC filed an official complaint against Sunday Riley and ordered the company to cease from writing fake reviews of its own products. However, the agency did not require Sunday Riley to make a public admission of the issue or pay fines for misleading the public. Hence, the company neither admitted nor denied the act.
In a post shared on Instagram, Sunday Riley clarified that it had only asked people to write positive reviews either for the launch of a new product or in answer to competitors often posting negative feedback on Sunday Riley products.
Two FTC commissioners strongly disagreed with the lenient sanction that the cosmetic company received. Commissioners Rohit Chopra and Rebecca Kelly Slaughter believe that this decision may encourage other companies to write fake reviews. They also feel for honest brands who lose money against dishonest companies. Moreover, the commissioners are worried that consumers will start disregarding reviews as a reliable basis for purchasing products.