Would you buy makeup that had been opened and used by someone else?
According to a recent class action consumer lawsuit, that’s allegedly what Ulta Beauty, a multi-million-dollar cosmetics company, has been doing. When people return cosmetics to the company for a refund, for any reason, store employees were allegedly instructed by managers to repackage and re-seal the returned items, then put them back on the shelves to be resold.
The allegations started with a Twitter user who claims to be a former employee of Ulta. According to a series of tweets she posted, the alleged practice of repackaging and re-sealing used products extended to all the company’s products, from makeup to fragrance to haircare tools. After she posted these accusations, other Twitter users, also claiming to have worked for Ulta, jumped to back up her claims, while others rejected them.
While the social media storm was no doubt a PR nightmare for Ulta, the Bolingbrook-based company now has a bigger problem on its hands: a consumer class action lawsuit seeking to represent anyone who has ever purchased products from Ulta. The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Chicago by Kimberley Laura Smith-Brown, who lives in Los Angeles and says she has bought dozens of Ulta products over the past six months, including eyeliner and lip balm.
While the complaint acknowledges that using cosmetics that have been opened and used by someone else is unsanitary, the lawsuit is more concerned with Ulta’s unjust enrichment as a result of this business practice. Aside from allegedly gaining the additional funds from selling the same products twice, the lawsuit also wants to sue Ulta for allegedly deceiving customers about the quality of the cosmetics they were buying. If Ulta’s products really were second hand, then they shouldn’t be charging full price for them, according to the lawsuit.
Launched in 1990, Ulta is currently selling everything from makeup to skincare and haircare in more than 1,000 stores all over the country, as well as on its website. In 2016, it reportedly brought in almost $5 billion in sales and had an approximate net income of $410 million. That would be catastrophic for the store to pay back if Smith-Brown is successful in pursuing her claims.
The beauty company released a statement denying the allegations and claiming that their policies and training are aimed at selling only products that are of the highest quality. Although Smith-Brown did not make the unsanitary conditions of used makeup a priority in her claim, Ulta did put it front and center in their public statement by assuring customers that their health and safety is a top priority for the company.
Although the health hazard that is posed by allegedly resealing and reselling used products did not appear to be at the top of Smith-Brown’s list of concerns, it will undoubtedly be a top concern for many other Ulta customers who may choose to join the lawsuit – and stop buying Ulta products in the future. For that reason, it made sense for Ulta to address the sanitary issue, even if it was not prominently raised in the complaint.
Our Naperville, Illinois consumer rights private law firm handles individual and class action gift card, data breach, privacy rights, deceptive advertising, predatory lending, unfair debt collection, lemon law, and other consumer fraud cases that government agencies and public interest law firms such as the Illinois Attorney General may not pursue. Class action lawsuits our law firm has been involved in or spear-headed have led to substantial awards totaling over a million dollars to organizations including the National Association of Consumer Advocates, the National Consumer Law Center, and local law school consumer programs. The Chicago consumer lawyers at Lubin Austermuehle are proud of our achievements in assisting national and local consumer rights organizations to obtain the funds needed to ensure that consumers are protected and informed of their rights. By standing up to consumer fraud and consumer rip-offs, and in the right case filing consumer protection lawsuits and class-actions you too can help ensure that other consumers’ rights are protected from consumer rip-offs and unscrupulous or dishonest practices.
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