The fake review epidemic

In the beauty industry, fraudulent reviews are rampant and regular. As Racked reported last year, the practice of gifting free products to consumers in exchange for positive reviews is common, and has only ballooned with the rise of influencers. Just last month, the Fashion Law reported that beauty influencers on Instagram are sometimes offered over $70,000 for posting negative reviews about products. And while Instagram users advertising for or against a product on their profiles are required by the Federal Trade Commision disclose the endorsement, that doesn’t always happen, possibly because the Facebook-owned platform has yet to finalize its endorsement policy.

Outside of beauty, Amazon has struggled with fraudulent reviews on its site, even though the company has banned “incentivized reviews” (which can involve gifting reviewers with products for positive reviews). And at the far end of the fake review spectrum, we have cases like Oobah Butler’s #1 Trip Advisor restaurant, which involved a completely made-up restaurant being ranked number one on TripAdvisor. Butler, who said he had worked writing false reviews for restaurants on the site, refashioned his own tiny home as “The Shed at Dulwich,” and finagled it into Trip Advisor’s top restaurant spot via false reviews.

Fake reviewing is a risky business, as the Sunday Riley situation shows. And online backlash isn’t the only thing to worry about: A “persistent online review fraudster” in Italy was recently fined €8,000 ($9,300) and sentenced to nine months in prison for operating a company that sold fake reviews to hotels.

Update: Sephora responded after publication with the following comment: “At Sephora, we believe in the power of the beauty community and that knowledge should be shared to benefit all. Sephora has very strict brand rules regarding our Ratings and Reviews, which we know are an important decision tool for our clients. Additionally, we have teams dedicated to protecting the integrity of our Ratings and Reviews, ensuring through detailed moderation that it’s a constant trusted, unbiased, authentic source for all. We do not believe this incident is representative of the Sephora Ratings and Reviews culture, or the countless hours our clients have spent sharing their product experiences with us and others. We’ve been in touch with Sunday Riley on this matter, and they have committed to adhering to our review policy.”

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