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The adage that declares everything’s bigger in Texas continues to stand time’s relentless test. Even fake reviews are bigger in the Lonestar State, so we’re going to explain what happened with the Texas-based company, Sunday Riley, and its phony review fraud case. And then, to help you avoid falling prey to false reviews, we’ll share some tips on how you can spot them.
For those who may not know, Sunday Riley is a luxury skincare company that sells cosmetic products in self-care and beauty retailer stores worldwide. In 2019, a whistleblower leaked that Sunday Riley, the CEO, mandated that company employees create multiple Sephora accounts so they could leave fake customer reviews that praised products that many had never even tried. This practice went on for years and helps to show why product reviews are important. Don’t forget you can also use social media and email marketing as means to help your business.
A product review that sounds like an advertisement is a good indication that it might be fake.
It came out in 2019 that Sunday Riley outlined step-by-step instructions to employees on how to pose as an ordinary user and leave positive reviews while also having them downvote any genuine negative reviews. Overall, employees left thousands of fake product reviews, and the company saw a direct increase in product sales. This shows why sites like Glassdoor can be extremely helpful when looking for a new employer, but it also shows how fake reviews on Glassdoor can hinder that benefit.
Once uncovered, this online review scandal went before the Federal Trade Commission. Ultimately, they confirmed the company’s practice of fake online product reviews and the CEO’s explicit instructions on how to produce them.
After being found guilty, the company did not have to pay any monetary penalties. Instead, they simply had to admit wrongdoing in a notice to consumers and promise not to continue producing fake reviews. You can read about another lawsuit with our write-up of the Casper mattress lawsuit.
Today, Sunday Riley skincare products still exist and are sold in significant beauty retailer chains.
Reviewers that leave only positive reviews have a high chance of being fake.
Unfortunately, especially with the example outlined above, fake reviews from dishonest firms can sometimes go unnoticed for a long time before being found out. However, a few things you can look for when reading reviews online can help you spot a dishonest reviewer.
First, you can check the reviewer’s profile. If they have reviews covering a range of brands and are a mixture of positive and negative, you can be confident that this person is being honest. Another thing to check for is grammar. If it’s riddled with spelling errors, it is an indicator of a generated review.
Lastly, check for specifics and the amount of time a brand’s name is mentioned. If the review lacks real-world specifics and constantly repeats a brand name, this is a strong indicator that the review is planted.
STAT: A Harvard Business School study showed that by increasing a Yelp rating by 1-star, a company raises revenues, on average, 5 to 9 percent. (source)
How common are fake reviews?
As far as anyone can tell, fake review scandals from large companies selling physical products, like the Sunday Riley Skincare line, are relatively rare. However, fake reviews are widespread in digital app markets.
Is it illegal to write fake reviews?
The FTC does have explicit laws that can penalize those who write fake reviews. And doing so can get your business license suspended.
Did Sunday Riley have to pay any fines for what they did?
The FTC did not impose any financial punishment. They just had to take down the fake reviews and vow not to continue the dishonest practice.