CHICAGO (CN) – A federal class-action lawsuit claims Ulta Beauty routinely repackages used cosmetics that are returned to its retail stores and then resells them to unsuspecting consumers who think they’re buying a new product.
The lawsuit, filed in Chicago federal court on Friday by lead attorney Theodore Bell of Wolf Haldenstein, was prompted by a viral Twitter thread from a woman claiming to be a former Ulta employee.
The ex-employee posted the allegations to Twitter on Jan. 9 using the handle @fatinamxo, alleging that Ulta managers trained employees on how to repackage and reseal used cosmetics so that they could be placed back on the shelf and sold as if they were new.
The woman says she shared her experience because she thought “makeup lovers should know what’s going on behind closed doors.”
According to Friday’s lawsuit, @fantinamxo’s allegations prompted responses from dozens of other current and former Ulta employees from all over the country who said similar practices occurred at the stores where they worked.
One Twitter user responded, “Yep we did the same thing at my Ulta I worked at. I’ve actually worked at 3 different Ulta’s and they all did this with returns.”
Another responded, “I’ve been working at an Ulta in Texas for 3 years & they do the same. It’s honestly so disgusting and I’m glad you shared it with everyone.”
The lawsuit goes on to explain how other employees have contacted media outlets with similar stories, including a former manager at an Ulta location in Ohio who spoke to Business Insider magazine on the condition of anonymity.
The former manager told Business Insider, “Our bosses constantly told us if it looked like it could be sold, put it back out. The company always had a percentage they wanted you to stay below weekly in what we damaged. We would literally get lectured by our boss on our conference calls if our stores were over.”
The same ex-manager also told Business Insider that “returned mascara and foundation were almost always placed back on the shelf since it was difficult to tell if they were used, and his staff would clean bottled products to make them look new again.”
Ulta Beauty said in a statement that it intends “to vigorously defend against the allegations.”
“Our policy does not allow the resale of used or damaged products,” a company spokesperson said. “Our store associates are trained to catalogue and then properly dispose of any opened, used, or damaged items. Our policies, training and procedures are aimed at ensuring that only the highest quality products are sold in our stores and online. The health and safety of Ulta Beauty guests is a top priority and we strive to consistently deliver an optimal experience every time they shop with us.”
The lead plaintiff in Friday’s class-action lawsuit, Kimberly Laura Smith-Brown, is a resident of Los Angeles, Calif., who seeks to represent all customers who bought cosmetics from Ulta Beauty stores or, alternatively, a class of people who bought cosmetics from Ulta stores in California.
Smith-Brown is suing Ulta for claims of unjust enrichment and violations of the California Unfair Competition Law. Her lawsuit says it was filed in Illinois because Ulta is headquartered there, in the Chicago suburb of Bolingbrook.
“Ulta’s widespread and surreptitious practice of repackaging, restocking and commingling used returned cosmetics with new cosmetics on its shelves means that every sale of cosmetics since Ulta began this policy is tainted with the possibility that the customer is purchasing used, dirty cosmetics,” the complaint states.
Smith-Brown seeks damages, restitution and attorneys’ fees. Her lead attorney, Bell, did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.