Brought by four women of Chinese descent, the discrimination class action claims Sephora shut down Asian users' accounts after its site crashed on November 6, due to a surge in web traffic resulting from a 20 percent-off sale promotion. According to Sephora, reselling of its products is pervasive. The company said it blocked some North American and international customer accounts for this reason.
According to the plaintiffs, the only accounts that were deactivated were those that used Chinese web domains or had names that Sephora perceived as being of Asian origin. Plaintiffs attorney said an investigation revealed that only users who fell into those two categories had their accounts blocked.
According to the lawsuit, the four named plaintiffs live in New York, Philadelphia, and Columbus, Ohio, and were all members of Sephora's 'Beauty Insider' program. The program gives customers who spend certain amounts on the company's products access to discounts and other promotions. The points the women accumulated by buying Sephora products, and which give access to additional discounts and special gifts, have been lost, according to the plaintiffs' attorneys. Sephora alleges it only went ahead with the deactivations after it "identified certain entities who take advantage of promotional opportunities to purchase products in large volume on our website and resell them through other channels."
Attorneys for the plaintiffs said that instead of deactivating accounts, Sephora could have addressed the resale issue by limiting the number of products a single customer could purchase or capping the amount of money they could spend.
The named plaintiffs seek to represent a class of Sephora customers who were part of the Beauty Insider program who either are or are perceived as being of Chinese or Asian ethnicity and had their accounts blocked or deactivated following the website crash. The potential class is expected to be in the thousands.
The plaintiffs are represented by Douglas Wigdor, David E. Gottlieb and Elizabeth Chen of Wigdor LLP and Jeanne Christensen of Imbesi Christensen The case is Xiao Xiao et al., v. Sephora USA Inc. et al., case number 14-cv-9181, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.