Luxury skincare company Sunday Riley settled with the Federal Trade Commission after an accusation that it had been posting fake online reviews to Sephora’s website for years.

A user on Reddit exposed the company back in October 2018. The whistleblower was allegedly an employee at Sunday Riley and posted an email from an executive in the company encouraging employees to post fake positive reviews on Sephora’s website. Employees used a VPN so their computers were untraceable. The company also requested that employees dislike any negative reviews, because with enough dislikes, Sephora would remove the negative reviews.

Many skincare brands don’t test their products long enough to have solid scientific evidence that they work, so they rely on online reviews to build brand recognition and loyalty. What Sunday Riley did was deceptive and unethical. Companies should earn authentic positive reviews from customers.

What brands can learn from this

Sunday Riley should have focused on reaching out to customers instead of its employees to write reviews. The brand has hundreds of thousands of followers on social media as well as customer emails it could market to. Additionally, since the focus was on obtaining online reviews, Sunday Riley could have posted signs in stores asking for feedback on review sites including Sephora.

From this scandal brands can learn that customer service should come before reviews. By giving the best experience possible to a customer, good reviews will flow in on their own. And ReviewMaxer can help make that happen.

What consumers can learn from this

Customers are getting better at evaluating the credibility of online reviews. Buying a product based on glowing reviews and then finding out it was all a lie is infuriating. Ultimately, when companies try to trick consumers, it turns them into smarter shoppers. Consumers should learn not to trust reviews at face value and how to spot when a review is fake, so in the future, they can find a brand they can trust.


Fake reviews are becoming an epidemic. Internet trolls spam review sites with fake negative reviews and can do considerable damage to a company’s online reputation. Conversely, some companies put out fake positive reviews themselves in an effort to boost their reputation. Fakespot, a fraud detection company, stated that 36% of online reviews on TripAdvisor aren’t reliable. The Washington Post also did a study about fake reviews and found that the highest percentage of questionable reviews on Amazon are on dieting products and electronics.  

It’s hard to determine what’s real and what’s fake online. As a consumer, it’s important to recognize red flags that indicate fake reviews. 

  1. Look at the star rating.

If a company receives a plethora of 5-star reviews in a short span of time, be cautious. Those reviews could be fake. It’s not likely the company is receiving glowing reviews from multiple customers all at once.

  1. Consider the company’s brand awareness. 

If the company you’re looking into is large, established, and has many fans, it’s more likely that it has tons of raving reviews. If the company is new, then a large number of positive reviews is unlikely. 

  1. Read the reviews. 

When you’re researching a company, don’t just pay attention to the star rating. Read the reviews. Notice the language that the reviewer uses. Is it organic and genuine or does it seem copy and pasted? Does the reviewer describe what he or she likes or dislikes about the product/service or does the review seem vague? Noticing these signs can help you figure out the authenticity of the review quickly. 

  1. Check the reviewer’s history. 

If you’re unsure whether a review is genuine or fake, check the history of the reviewer. Look at past reviews the person left. If the reviewer is handing out 5-star reviews for several products from the same company, it’s likely those reviews are fake. 

As a consumer, it’s important that you’re able to recognize a fake review. Most people use reviews in their buying decisions. Falling for false reviews could influence you in the wrong direction. Reading a fake negative review could drive you away from a business that may offer amazing services, while a fake positive review may attract you to a company that isn’t so great. Knowing and understanding the signs of fake reviews can save you a lot of trouble. 

Don’t let internet trolls ruin your company’s online reputation. Be in control of your company’s reviews with ReviewMaxer’s review management services. Want to learn more? Sign up here for a free demo.


5 ways to thwart fake bad reviews and manage your online reputation 

It’s easy to spot when your company’s online reputation is under attack. Often, multiple critical reviews pop up at the same time with similar language repeated throughout. Do the reviews sound like a story rather than facts of the reviewer's experience? Check the reviewer’s profile. Does this person have a history of leaving only negative reviews to get free products or services?

Once you identify that the reviews are fake, it’s time to follow through with your crisis plan. Your crisis plan should be in place long before anyone posts a negative review of your company. 

Here are some ways you can combat fake negative reviews:

  1. Proactively seek out positive reviews before you’re attacked.

If you have hundreds of 4- or 5-star reviews already, they’ll provide a cushion when multiple negative reviews pop up at once. Post signs around your company encouraging customers to leave honest reviews about their experiences. Potential customers who come across your review page are smart enough to trust a longer history of excellent reviews over a short spam of negative reviews.

  1. Make sure you claim your social media and review pages.

By claiming your review pages, you’re able to respond quickly and efficiently to negative reviews. Not claiming them before a spam attack results in extra steps that waste time and could result in more negative reviews or a loss of business.

  1. Have review management software in place. 

ReviewMaxer gives you the ability to see reviews across hundreds of review platforms all on one page. The attack of fake reviews may not just be on Yelp or Google, it could be across multiple sites. Review management software allows you to see where the attack is taking place and regularly updates you on new reviews as they come in, so you can respond to the negative reviews quickly.

  1. Report the fake reviews.

Each review site has its own policy on how to report reviews. However, this isn’t an instant problem-solver. Support for review websites is often understaffed compared to the number of reports they handle each day. 

  1. Turn off the review feature.

As a last resort, you can turn off the review feature. This mainly applies to Facebook. Since you should own your business page on Facebook, you have the ability to control the review feature. Most review sites, like Yelp, don’t allow companies to remove their page. If you do turn off reviews, it’ll prevent new positive reviews from coming in. Most of the time, people don’t trust old reviews. That’s why it’s better to be proactive rather than reactive when a fake review crisis happens.

Want to learn more about how to manage your business reviews? Watch this free demo today to find out how ReviewMaxer can protect your company.


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