Facebook Vows to Crack Down on Sketchy Discount-Clothing Retailers

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The social network company has received a barrage of complaints from users about low-quality, knockoff items they've bought through ads on the site.

Have you seen the ads on Facebook for a beautiful formal gown for $25.46 (regularly priced at $181.86) or a super cute $14 trendy skirt (valued at $238)? Before you click on the ad or make a purchase from a retailer you don’t know anything about, remember this old adage: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

According to this investigative reporting piece from Buzzfeed, a number of shady China-based clothing retailers using names like DressLily, RoseGal, Choies, and Zaful, are creating Facebook ads with images of beautiful apparel items — typically using pictures copied from other legitimate clothing retailers — and super cheap prices to entice women to buy their products.

Unfortunately, when the purchased item finally arrives (and sometimes it never does), consumers are disappointed to find out they’ve been cheated. Instead of receiving the clothing items that match the description and images advertised by the retailer, they find cheap-looking, poorly made knockoff clothing that is often unwearable.

Most frustrated consumers then find out that getting a refund for the shoddy clothing from the retailers is next to impossible.

Angry customers have created Facebook sites like Knock Off Nightmares, Don’t Do It Girl, Rosegal.com is a SCAM and DressLily Victims, to share their “buyer, beware” stories with other Facebook users.

After Buzzfeed’s report — which revealed that at least eight of the shady retailers operate under one Chinese company, called ShenZhen Global Egrow E-Commerce Co., that made $200 million in sales in 2014 — Facebook reached out to Buzzfeed to say it’s committed to finding new ways to police advertisers who are using its site to advertise and sell “overwhelmingly unsatisfactory” products.

“One of our most important goals with Facebook ads is to present experiences that are relevant and high-quality,” Andrew Bosworth, Facebook’s vice president of ads and pages, said in an emailed statement to Buzzfeed. “We understand the gravity of this issue and we’re taking it very seriously.”

Facebook said policing more than 50 million active businesses on its site is a complex issue. But Jordan Gardner, TrustPilot’s director of customer success in North America, told Buzzfeed that it can be done.

For example: Google AdWords’ quality scores “basically look at lots of different data points, and if they think you’re a good company to show an ad for, they make it cheaper for you to show your ad, and if they think you’re a bad fit, they make it very expensive,” [Garner] said. “It’s logical that there’s a way that Facebook can start to have their own barometer over whether a company is good or bad to show for a certain target audience.”

“I remember the days of the spam and the porn and all of that stuff that infiltrated our Facebook feeds or ended up on our walls and [Facebook was] able to crack down on that,” Chris Tuff, the director of business development and partnerships at ad agency 22squared, told Buzzfeed. “Now they have to catch up to what’s happening right now.”

Although Facebook obviously needs to do a much better job of vetting its advertisers, and there appear to be tools it can use to do so, it’s always a good idea to do some research on an unknown retailer before making a purchase.

Have you been lured to order unsatisfactory apparel or other sub-par products based on Facebook ads? Share your experiences below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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