A beauty blogger with more than 1 million followers is accusing an American cosmetics brand of false advertising on its Chinese website, and says he plans to file a lawsuit against the company.
Hao Yu — popularly known as “Dr. Big Mouth” on social media — dissed La Mer for deceiving consumers with claims that its products could help heal burn scars. On its Chinese website, La Mer, which is owned by Estée Lauder, claims that the ingredients used in its products miraculously “restored” its inventor’s skin to its former glory following an accident. However, on its main website, La Mer says that the active cell-renewing ingredient in Miracle Broth merely “soothed” the man’s skin.
La Mer is one of several international cosmetics brands trying to woo Chinese consumers, who don’t hesitate to spend big bucks on their appearances. This trend has fueled a multibillion-dollar beauty market in China: The retail revenues from makeup and skin care products last year reached 34.4 billion and 186.7 billion yuan ($5.2 billion and $28 billion) respectively, according to market research company Euromonitor. La Mer, the fourth brand to join Estée Lauder’s billion-dollar club, has also seen strong growth in China, according to its parent company.
When Sixth Tone contacted Estée Lauder’s office in Shanghai to ask about the allegations, its public relations department said in a written statement that “La Mer is committed to the highest standards in craftsmanship and quality of ingredients.”
But citing customer testimonies, Hao claimed on his Weibo microblog that La Mer’s skin care products do not accomplish much in the way of scar-healing. He dismissed La Mer’s claims as “false promotion” in violation of China’s advertising law, which stipulates that exaggerating a product’s utility can be punished by hefty fines. He is demanding that the cosmetics brand rectify the misleading claims, apologize to Chinese consumers, and compensate them for their losses.
“It’s deliberate fraud and discrimination against Chinese consumers,” Hao wrote to his followers on Wednesday. “I don’t oppose the products, but rather the dishonesty.” Hao had not responded to Sixth Tone’s interview request by time of publication.
Online, netizen reactions are divided. Some blame users for blindly believing such fanciful claims, while others say businesses should be held liable for misinforming consumers. “Do those idiots expect La Mer to cure allergies and burns?” wrote one Weibo user. “Skin care products can never cure illness, OK?”
“Exaggerated or false advertising can easily cause confusion,” wrote another user, “so let the public know that it is just a face cream, not some magic elixir that can repair your skin.”
Editor: Bibek Bhandari.
(Header image: A woman browses La Mer’s official website in Shanghai, Sept. 27, 2018. Shi Yangkun/Sixth Tone)