On the heels of allegations that Sephora had blocked the online accounts of customers with Asian names in connection with a 20 percent off sale earlier this month, the cosmetics giant (and its parent company LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton) has been slapped with a racial discrimination lawsuit. According to the complaint, which was filed this week by Xiao Xiao, Man Xu, Jiali Chen and Tiantian Zou in the Southern District of New York, Sephora deactivated the plaintiffs' accounts after its site crashed on November 6th. The plaintiffs allege that because of their Asian surnames, they were blocked from using the site after it was back up and running. The complaint further states that only customers with Asian names or email addresses from Chinese domains were blocked from the site, as the company suspected them of buying discount items in bulk to resell them, which the plaintiffs allege is based on an "ill-founded and discriminatory belief."
Sephora attempted to shed light on the matter, taking to its Facebook account, and claiming that the malfunctioning was owed to "high levels of bulk buys for reselling purposes in North America and other countries" and a number of accounts it believed to be associated with that activity remained suspended. The company further stated: "After careful consideration, we have deactivated these accounts in order to optimize product availability for the majority of our clients, as well as ensure that consumers are not subject to increased prices or products that are not being handled or stored properly."
The four plaintiffs, all of whom are based in the United States, are seeking class action certification (which would allow others to join in the lawsuit), unspecified damages (The plantiffs’ counsel believes Sephora will have to pay damages "well into the millions") and a court order barring the company from engaging in the alleged practice.
Upon learning of the filing, Sephora released a statement to Fashionista saying: "This lawsuit significantly distorts the facts in this matter. We look forward to defending our actions in court. Among other points, we intend to make very clear that clients from a number of countries around the world have been impacted by a temporary block we needed to place on accounts in order to restore the functionality of our site during a surge of activity by resellers during a promotional event two weeks ago."