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French brand L’Oréal under fire in China over delayed deliveries, misleading marketing

By Dennis Meng (People's Daily Online) 17:21, November 18, 2021

Staff members transport packages at a logistics center in Zhengzhou, central China's Henan Province, Nov. 11, 2021. With orders pouring in at midnight Wednesday, this year's Singles' Day shopping spree peaked on multiple e-commerce platforms in China. (Xinhua/Zhang Haoran)

Sophia went on a shopping spree during the “Double Eleven” shopping festival. She and many of her friends had planned to spend big on cosmetics. The price tags, as they believed, would be just too tempting to turn down. But her shopping journey didn’t end with the act of payment. After all the ordering came the long wait, and only after unpacking each of the parcel would she feel that her shopping revelry come complete. This year, however, that completeness was partially ruined when an eye cream marketed and sold by the French cosmetics company L’Oréal was never delivered.

“I am so mad at L’Oréal, and its bot-filled customer service ignored my requests for days, if not weeks,” said Sophia, during an interview with People’s Daily Online. Sophia pre-ordered the eye cream on Oct. 20 on Taobao, Alibaba’s most popular e-commerce platform, during a live-streamed event, a prelude to this year’s “Double Eleven” festival, and later paid the full balance on Nov. 1. But even after the weeks-long shopping carnival came to an end on Nov. 12, Sophia still hadn’t received the product.

In a series of requests she sent to L’Oréal’s customer service on Taobao, Sophia reiterated that it was unreasonable for it to take so long for the delivery and that the shopping platform’s receipt confirmation would automatically be signed, even despite having had no status updates on the whereabouts of her package. “The second they knew I was asking about the delivery, they sent me directly to their bot colleagues,” she sighed.

Sophia is one of many thousands of consumers who have encountered similar headaches after purchasing L’Oréal’s products in recent weeks. Under the comments sections of L’Oréal’s official account on Weibo, a Chinese microblogging platform, angry customers posted screenshots of their complaints together with their purchasing records, demanding answers, with the rallying cry “I want my money back!” being one of their most commonly-used catchphrases.

Delayed delivery isn’t the only—maybe not even the biggest—trouble the French brand has found itself bogged down in recently, as a stack of complaints are being directing specifically at L’Oréal’s pricing mechanisms. Many Chinese customers who pre-ordered L’Oréal’s facial masks co-promoted by the company and livestreamers such as Li Jiaqi and Viya had found that they could buy the same masks three weeks later at only 60 percent of the price. “I saw their promotion messages online on October 20 that read ‘The Lowest Price of the Year’ and here I came,” an Internet user quipped on Weibo. “But guess what? On November 11, I saw a much LOWER price.”

Following the heated disputes surrounding L’Oréal, Viya and Li Jiaqi separately announced on Nov. 17 that they would suspend their cooperative partnership with L’Oréal and that if the French company refused to offer any solutions within 24 hours they would personally compensate customers for the advertised price difference. L’Oréal meanwhile did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Dong Chunhua, professor at the East China University of Political Science and Law, said during an interview that such practices had apparently violated China’s Consumers’ Rights and Interests Protection Law, which forbids false advertising, including scenarios in which a retailer advertises the year’s biggest discounts only to later continue selling the same products at still lower prices. “According to the law, consumers whose legitimate rights and interests are infringed upon in receiving services may demand compensations from suppliers of the services,” she added.

On Nov. 18, L’Oréal issued a statement in response to the latest episode, in which the company apologized for “bringing about puzzlements to buyers because of the perplexed and complicated promotion mechanisms.” The company said that the reason why a few customers bought their products at lower prices after the initial promotion period ended was that they might have used multiple coupons across the platform. “We are working with relevant departments to conduct a sound and thorough investigation and we will do our best to provide customers affected with fair and proper solutions as soon as possible,” the statement read.

For many, the statement isn’t enough to appease their anger and disappointment. “I want an apology and a refund,” Sophia said. “Next year, maybe I would think twice before buying any of their products.” 

Name has been changed for privacy.

(Web editor: Meng Bin, Bianji)

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