Beauty Fans Call Out Sunday Riley On Instagram Over Fake Review Scandal

Photographed by Kate Anglestein.
When cult skincare brand Sunday Riley was outed on Reddit for encouraging staff to pen fake reviews on beauty retailer Sephora's website, fans were shocked – and rightly so.
These reviews are what convince us as consumers either to spend our hard-earned money on a product or to leave it in the basket. Skincare obsessives worldwide place their trust in online retailers to feature honest judgements from people who have tried and tested the products in question.
It wasn't long before the accusations on Reddit prompted an investigation by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC). According to the BBC, the inquiry concluded that brand founder, Sunday Riley had pointed staff in the direction of Sephora's website to leave false reviews. An email quoted in the FTC investigation also mentioned that staff were encouraged to "dislike" negative reviews so that they would eventually be removed from the site.
This week, it emerged that Sunday Riley managed to avoid a fine from the FTC. Instead, the company was reprimanded and charged with two violations of the Federal Trade Commission Act. A settlement was made to ban Sunday Riley (the company) and Ms Riley herself from posting false online reviews in the future.
Understandably, consumers weren't happy about being deceived by the brand and the FTC's rather lenient decision, and took to Sunday Riley's Instagram page to vent their frustration. Underneath a post advertising the brand's new A+ High Dose Retinoid Serum, one Instagram user wrote: "I'm really disappointed. I have numerous Sunday Riley products. I didn't know anyone who used the line because it's expensive. I trusted those reviews to help guide me and to find out that Sunday Riley herself encouraged her people to post fake reviews, it's very upsetting. These products are great. They speak for themselves. You didn't need to do this. I'll think twice before I purchase any more Sunday Riley."
Another customer commented: "Disappointed in this brand's behaviour and outcome of the investigation. If you want to keep your loyal customers and build your consumer base in future, I would highly recommend issuing an apology for this behaviour. I will not be using your products if you can't be honest about what you did and apologise for it."
One follower said that the lack of a response from Sunday Riley in light of the investigation and the revelations have let people down. Fans have also noticed that the brand has been messaging people back, but only if the comment is complimentary. "It's kind of unfortunate that you don't care to respond to the people who are taking the time to share their feelings about your scandal," said one customer. "At this point, your comms team should be focusing on damage control and responding to literally everyone. But you still only pay attention to the positive. Lol what a joke."
In response to the settlement, one customer said: "The argument that everyone else does it too is reductive and doesn't do anything to even attempt to solve the issue. The FTC should have, in my opinion, issued a harsher punishment rather than essentially issuing a warning not to do it again. That would have potentially set a precedent and an example to hopefully spur other companies who also may be guilty of the same or similar infractions to change their ways or face similar punishments."
Interestingly, Rohit Chopra and Rebecca Kelly Slaughter of the FTC voted against the settlement and believe that it sends the wrong message to the marketplace, as reported by the BBC. "Dishonest firms may come to conclude that posting fake reviews is a viable strategy, given the proposed outcome here," they said in a joint statement. "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."
Refinery29 UK has reached out to Sunday Riley for comment.

More from Beauty

R29 Original Series