Australian news: consumers misled/lied to by (some) companies about cruelty-free cosmetics

The news item in brief:

The consumer watchdog Choice (Australian version) led an undercover investigation in Australia. Choice sent secret shoppers to the counters of major cosmetics companies to find out if these companies were upfront with consumers about their policies on animal testing. They found that many manufacturers’ websites, packaging, and sales staff are failing to inform Australian customers that their beauty products are tested on animals in China.

These companies included, amongst others: Avon, Bobbi Brown, Dior, Estee Lauder (and their sub-brands), Lancôme, Mary Kay, L’Oréal, MAC, Shiseido, SK-II.

Choice will be reporting a list of these offenders to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission this week.

Sources and further information:

  • “Top cosmetics brands ‘lying to customers about animal testing,’ ” AAP c/o (2013-05-06)
  • “Consumers ‘being misled’ over cruelty free cosmetics,” Amy Bainbridge, ABC News (2013-05-06)
  • “Which major cosmetics companies are misleading consumers about animal testing?” Melody Marks, Examiner (2013-05-06)
  • “Animal testing labelling: Can you trust a cosmetic company’s claims that its products aren’t tested on animals? If it sells them in China, possibly not.” Zoya Sheftalovich, The People’s Watchdog (2013-05-06)


  • careful careful CAREFUL on actual situation, i.e. Chinese law and what happens in China in practice, may be more complicated: it’s not necessarily a simple case of “sold in China = animal-tested”; I don’t know enough about Chinese law (and can’t read, write, or speak Chinese), would defer on this to experts who do; I hope Choice (or anyone else similarly solid and reputable) works with such people, and maybe even has them lead the team, in conducting follow-up further investigations.
    Note the difference in reporting, and the effects of increasingly sensationalist/~ising tweaks to the statements made: just looking at the headlines, you see a move from “possibly” (Choice) via “misled” to “lying.”
  • caveat emptor as ever on “beauty consultants” and other sales assistants/associates. But their job is to sell you stuff, and as soon as they figure out what you want and don’t want, they’ll try to sell you that. If they don’t have that, they’ll try to persuade you either (a) to buy something else because it’s the same/better, or (b) that something they do have is actually what you’re looking for.
    Examples: foundation that’s the wrong colour, a different mascara, scented skincare, “it’s all-natural so it’s good for your skin,” “all our products are suitable for skin with acne/eczema/bubonic plague”… or, as here, “yes all our stuff is cruelty-free.”
  • Yes, all people (whether or not they’re selling stuff) should be honest; but maybe they don’t know, maybe they’re not the smartest cookies in the jar (and maybe that’s why they’re in these jobs?).
    Maybe that’s been exploited by their managers and trainers, in limiting what information they give out.
    Maybe (to be fair to the trainers) keeping things simple (for simpler minds), dumbing down, simplifying the information, and result: some untruths.
    Maybe SAs aren’t capable of asking the right questions (to those Higher Up), or thinking about non-robot questions that customers ask them, and the result is “a fatal error has occurred, reboot and meanwhile spout garbage.”
  • More on cruelty-free stuff and China here

One comment

  1. kristen

    AH the amount of times i’ve educated beauty counter assistants on their brands..Most are totally ignorant of what their brand or company do or do not do. They care just about selling a product…*looks at Benefit and Smashbox sales assistants who pester me as i walk past*

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