L'Oreal China apologises after complicated Singles' Day deal angers shoppers

Tourists walk past the entrance of the L'Oreal building in Paris. The French cosmetics giant is facing a consumer backlash in China over its Singles' Day promotion for a facial mask.
PHOTO: Reuters

L'Oreal has issued an apology in China after deal-seeking shoppers accused the French cosmetics conglomerate of deceiving consumers during this year's Singles' Day shopping festival, prompting two of the country's best-known live-streaming influencers to pause partnerships with the company.

According to Li Jiaqi, who is widely known as China's "lipstick king" for his feat of selling 15,000 lipsticks in five minutes, L'Oreal advertised in October that people could score the year's biggest discount for a facial mask if they tuned in for his live-streaming sales sessions.

However, customers later found out they were able to buy the facial mask at a lower price by snatching coupons during L'Oreal's own live-streaming sessions during the annual shopping spree, said Li.

Angry buyers took to microblogging platform Weibo to complain, sending relevant topics trending on the site's search ranking.

On Thursday (Nov 18), Heimao, a website operated by Weibo owner Sina that publishes consumer complaints, showed some 30,000 complaints filed against L'Oreal for the alleged pricing difference, with some shoppers protesting that they had wasted time staying up only to grab the wrong deals.

"This is unfair to consumers who waited at the live-stream channel on the first day of the presale, trusted our live-streaming channel and bought the product through our channel," Li wrote on Weibo.

Li and Viya, a top live-streaming saleswoman, both said in statements that they have suspended all collaborations with L'Oreal until the issue is resolved.

They also promised to compensate buyers if the company fails to come up with a solution within 24 hours.

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In a statement published on Weibo, L'Oreal China apologised for causing trouble for consumers with its "overly complicated sales mechanism".

It said that it has created a team that is working with relevant government departments to investigate the case, and it will soon propose a solution.

L'Oreal did not immediately respond to an emailed request for additional comments on Thursday.

The dispute comes amid increasing consumer complaints about the complexity of deals offered on Singles' Day, the world's largest online shopping event, which this year saw its most sluggish growth since inception.

Alibaba Group Holding, owner of the South China Morning Post, sold 540.3 billion yuan (S$114.9 billion) worth of goods during this year's Singles' Day, marking an 8.45 per cent growth from a year earlier - its first single-digit growth since the company launched the event in 2009.

In a report published on Thursday, the China Consumer Association said that consumers have become more mindful of the extravagant consumption behaviours associated with Singles' Day.

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