Connect with us

Headlines

Retailer Rebuked by FTC for Posting Fake Online Reviews

But two commissioners say the agency is going too easy on the firm.

mm

Published

on

Retailers of all types want a flattering online presence, but a new Federal Trade Commission case serves as a warning: Fake reviews don’t pay.

The FTC has halted what it calls the “deceptive online marketing tactics” of a company that allegedly used fake product reviews posted by its employees on a well-known retail website.

Cosmetics firm Sunday Riley Modern Skincare LLC and its CEO, Sunday Riley, have agreed to settle an FTC complaint, according to a press release from the agency. They were alleged to have posted fake reviews to Sephora.

Podcast: What Exactly Does it Take to Become America’s Finest Optical Retailer?
INVISION Podcast

Podcast: What Exactly Does it Take to Become America’s Finest Optical Retailer?

Podcast: Why Optical (and Especially Optical Retail) Is Lagging Behind Other Industries
INVISION Podcast

Podcast: Why Optical (and Especially Optical Retail) Is Lagging Behind Other Industries

Podcast: What the Heck is Marketing? And What Should ECPs Focus on to Attract New Clients?
INVISION Podcast

Podcast: What the Heck is Marketing? And What Should ECPs Focus on to Attract New Clients?

“Dishonesty in the online marketplace harms shoppers, as well as firms that play fair and square,” said Andrew Smith, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “… It undermines the marketplace, and the FTC will not tolerate it.”

Wired.com noted, however that the settlement “did not require the company to admit fault, notify customers of the fraud, or turn over any ill-gotten gains.”

Advertisement

As such, Commissioner Rohit Chopra, who along with Commissioner Rebecca Slaughter dissented from the FTC decision, stated: “Dishonest firms may come to conclude that posting fake reviews is a viable strategy, given the proposed outcome here. 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.”

As detailed in the FTC’s complaint, Texas-based Sunday Riley Skincare sells a variety of cosmetic products, including Luna Sleeping Night Oil, Good Genes All-In-One Lactic Acid Treatment, Blue Moon Tranquility Cleansing Balm, Start Over Active Eye Gel Cream, Bionic Anti-Aging Cream and C.E.O. Rapid Flash Brightening Serum. The company sells its cosmetics at Sephora, a multinational chain of personal care and beauty stores, and on the Sephora.com website. The products sell for between $22 and $158 each, according to the FTC.

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, the FTC explained. In its complaint, the agency alleged that between November 2015 and August 2017, Sunday Riley Skincare managers, including Riley herself, posted reviews of their branded products on the Sephora site using fake accounts created to hide their identity, and requested that other Sunday Riley Skincare employees do the same thing.

The FTC alleged that after Sephora removed fake employee-written reviews, Sunday Riley Skincare employees suspected this was because Sephora recognized the reviews as coming from their IP addresses. Sunday Riley Skincare then allegedly obtained, according to one of the company’s managers, “an Express VPN account [to] … allow us to hide our IP address and location when we write reviews.” A VPN (virtual private network) lets users access the internet privately using separate servers to hide their online activity.

The FTC complaint also quoted from a July 2016 email that Riley wrote to her staff directing each of them to “create three accounts on Sephora.com, registered as … different identities.” The email included step-by-step instructions for setting up new personas and using a VPN to hide their identities, and directed employees to focus on certain products, to “[a]lways leave 5 stars” when reviewing Sunday Riley Skincare products, and to “dislike” negative reviews. “If you see a negative review – DISLIKE it,” Riley wrote, adding: “After enough dislikes, it is removed. This directly translates into sales!!”

The FTC’s complaint charged Sunday Riley Skincare and the CEO with two violations of the FTC Act: 1.) making false or misleading claims that the fake reviews reflected the opinions of ordinary users of the products; and 2.) deceptively failing to disclose that the reviews were written by Riley or her employees.

Advertisement

The proposed administrative order settling the FTC’s allegations against Sunday Riley Skincare and Riley is intended to ensure the respondents do not engage in similar allegedly illegal conduct in the future, according to the release. First, the order “prohibits the respondents, in connection with the sale of any product, from misrepresenting the status of any endorser or person reviewing the product,” according to the agency. This includes misrepresentations that the endorser or reviewer is an independent or ordinary user of the product.

Next, the order “prohibits the respondents from making any representation about any consumer or other product endorser without clearly and conspicuously disclosing any unexpected material connection between the endorser and any respondent or entity affiliated with the product.” Such disclosures must be made in close proximity to the product review or endorsement.

In addition, the order requires the respondents to instruct their employees and agents about their responsibilities to clearly and conspicuously disclose their connections to the respondents’ products in any endorsements.

The Commission vote approving the administrative complaint and proposed consent order in the Sunday Riley matter was 3-2, with Chopra and Slaughter voting no.

The public may submit comments on the proposed consent order through Regulations.gov. The comment period opened on Oct. 25. Comments will be accepted for 30 days from publication in the Federal Register, after which the agency will decide whether to make the proposed consent order final. Comments received will be posted on Regulations.gov.

Advertisement

Since launching in 2014, INVISION has won 23 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INVISION's editors at editor@invisionmag.com.

Advertisement

SPONSORED VIDEO

SPONSORED BY REICHERT

When You’re Passionate About Eye Care, the Right Technology Matters

Lisa Genovese, O.D., strives to give her patients the very best. At Insight Eye Care’s multiple locations, Dr. Genovese provides optimal care for her patients using the Reichert® Phoroptor® VRx Digital Refraction System. In this second Practice Profile Video from Reichert’s “Passionate About Eye Care” series, take a closer look and see how this eye care professional achieved a better work-life balance with equipment that’s designed and engineered in the U.S.A.

Promoted Headlines

Headlines

LASIK Should Be Banned, Says FDA Adviser

He regrets voting to approve the treatment.

mm

Published

on

A retired U.S. Food and Drug Administration adviser says LASIK eye surgery should be removed from the market.

Morris Waxler voted to approve to treatment, but now wishes he hadn’t, CBS News reports. He has re-examined the data.

“Essentially we ignored the data on vision distortions that persisted for years,” he told CBS.

His analysis suggests that 10 percent to 30 percent of patients experience complications. He asked the FDA in 2011 to issue a voluntary recall of the treatment, but the FDA declined to do so.

The FDA recently told CBS that it “has not found any new safety concerns associated with LASIK devices.”

CBS News quoted several patients saying they’d been harmed by LASIK.

Abraham Rutner, for example, said that he had double vision and that “around the lights [was] like having starbursts.” He notes, however, that his vision is improved by approximately 90 percent.

Experts say pre-surgical screening is crucial to avoiding LASIK complications.

The key lies in “knowing who to operate on and who not to operate on and there are people who really should not have this procedure,” Dr. Jules Winokur told CBS News.

The FDA has issued an advisory on risks and how to find find the right doctor for LASIK.

Read more at CBS News

Continue Reading

Headlines

Video: Adorable Cat Melts Hearts By Trying on Eyewear for Children

Kids see that ‘if she can wear hers, they can wear them too.’

mm

Published

on

A rescue cat in Pennsylvania is getting attention for her role in making children feel comfortable with their eyeglasses.

Truffles happily wears brightly colored frames to set a good example for the young patients of A Child’s Eyes in Mechanicsburg, the Daily Mail reports.

“If a child is feeling a bit nervous I ask Truffles if she wants to show them her glasses,” says Danielle Crull, owner of the business. “When they see Truffles wearing them it’s a really good thing and shows that if she can wear hers, they can wear them too.”

A video of the cat trying on eyewear has been viewed millions of times.

Watch the video:

Continue Reading

Headlines

Several Eyecare Drugs in Short Supply, FDA Says

They include staple items.

mm

Published

on

Thirteen ophthalmic drugs or products are currently in a state of shortage, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

They include solutions, ointments, emulsions, suspensions and injections, the American Optometric Association reports. Another four ophthalmic products were recently discontinued altogether.

The FDA claims in a new report that older, lower-cost drugs face supply troubles far more often than brand-name options, AOA reports. Among the ophthalmic drugs or products in shortage are staple items such as fluorescein strips and solutionsdilation dropsglaucoma medicationsantibiotics and antivirals.

According to AOA:

Published Oct. 29 by an FDA-convened inter-agency Drug Shortages Task Force, the report, “Drug Shortages: Root Causes and Potential Solutions,” analyzed 163 drugs that went into shortage from 2013 to 2017 and found the majority were “financially unattractive drugs” for manufacturers. Of the 163 drugs, 109 (67%) had generic versions on the market and had a median time since first approval of nearly 35 years. So many years off patent, these drugs sold for a median per unit price of only $8.73, the FDA notes.

AOA Chief Public Health Officer Michael Duenas, OD, said, “A doctor of optometry, in their public health role, should monitor services and needed supplies to determine that they are useful and accessible to all individuals within their community who may need that particular service or supply. Doctors of optometry are encouraged to report deficiencies to the AOA and agencies overseeing shortages, such as FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) Drug Shortage Program at drugshortages@fda.hhs.gov.”

Continue Reading

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement

Subscribe


BULLETINS

Get the most important news and business ideas for eyecare professionals every weekday from INVISION.

Facebook

Most Popular