China’s most influential e-commerce livestream stars Li Jiaqi and Huang Wei (popularly known as “Viya”) said they have suspended their cooperation with French cosmetics giant L’Oréal over a dispute about prices during the Singles’ Day shopping season, China’s equivalent of the ‘Black Friday’ sale in the US.
The spat marks a rare public dispute for the retail industry in China, where companies have become increasingly reliant on influencers as a sales channel.
Some consumers were able to buy L’Oréal’s Revitalift Filler facial masks at lower prices from L’Oréal’s Singles’ Day livestream show while L’Oréal previously promised a “largest discount of the year” for Li’s and Viya’s followers in a pre-sale, Li and Viya said in separate statements on Wednesday on the Twitter-like Weibo social media network, using similar language.
“This is unfair for consumers who watched their clock to tune in to our show on October 20, the first day of the pre-sale,” both of them said.
The price at L’Oréal’s own store was about one-third cheaper, according to Chinese media.
Li Jiaqi, often referred to as the “Lipstick King”, and Viya, the singer-turned “Livestream Queen”, pre-sold a combined 18.9 billion yuan ($2.96 billion) worth of goods on October 20 in pre-Singles Day promotions, according to Chinese media.
The two livestream stars are giving L’Oréal 24 hours to provide a “final solution”, and promised to compensate their followers out of their own pockets if no remedy from L’Oréal.
L’Oréal issued a statement in the wee hours on Thursday, and apologised for confusing consumers with a complex Singles’ Day promotion mechanism.
Consumers were able to buy the products at cheaper prices after meeting certain spending requirements and applying discounts from both L’Oréal and the e-commerce platform, L’Oréal said on Weibo.
L’Oréal is working with authorities on an exhaustive investigation into the dispute, and will provide a fair and appropriate solution to the consumers as soon as possible, it said.
The spat became one of the most viewed topics on Weibo on Thursday, with 450 million hits.
Some consumers called on Weibo for L’Oréal to be exposed in the popular “315 Consumer Rights Gala” from China’s state broadcaster, which has previously named and shamed firms from Apple to Volkswagen.
But Feng Pai, a lawyer from Long An Law Firm in Beijing, said in a commentary that there is “no significant wrongdoing” with L’Oréal because the promotion in its own store covered various products. while the promotion at Li’s and Viya’s shows was for a particular product only.
• Iris Hong