The celebrities filed a lawsuit on Wednesday in L.A. Superior Court, challenging what they call the “celebrity endorsement theft” industry. The suit targets unnamed sellers who use affiliate networks to push false news articles claiming the pair has endorsed various products.
On Thursday, SAG-AFTRA released a statement supporting their efforts. “SAG-AFTRA has been at the forefront of protecting our members’ image and voice rights for decades through strong contracts and strong legislation. The tools and technologies used by ill-intentioned people or companies for identity abuse and commercial misappropriation on the internet have grown more sophisticated, making it harder to stop. This abuse affects all of us. We stand behind Sandra Bullock and Ellen DeGeneres, whose lawsuit will help protect everyone from image theft, consumer fraud and deception,” the statement read.
“They are targeted because of their age, their unimpeachable reputation for honesty and having worked hard at maintaining a healthy and youthful look, which con artists believe will attract and dupe unwitting customers into getting bilked by giving up their credit card information,” the lawsuit alleges.
The suit alleges that customers are swindled into signing up for recurring auto-payments. The Federal Trade Commission has pursued marketers who use such schemes, filing suit in 2015 against a network of beauty product retailers who allegedly used the lure of a “risk-free” trial offer to bill customers for recurring payments.
In 2017, the FTC also warned the public about fake news articles claiming that celebrities like Stephen Hawking and Anderson Cooper had endorsed “brain booster” pills.
Bullock and DeGeneres allege that the sellers use templates, which regularly swap out the name of the product being sold. A particularly common form of online ad claims that the product got “the biggest deal” in the history of the TV show “Shark Tank.”
The ads include fake quotes from DeGeneres, Bullock and other celebrities.
“I don’t wear a lot of makeup, so if my skin is suffering — the whole world knows about it,” DeGeneres is quoted as saying in one of the ads. “Thankfully I was introduced to Elliessé Anti-Aging Eye Serum and now I even film episodes of my show completely makeup-free. No one notices because my skin looks incredible!”
The suit says DeGeneres had never heard of the product before she was notified of the scam, has never tried it and does not endorse it.
The plantiffs do not know the names of the people who are perpetrating the scam. The suit identifies them as Does 1-100, and says the suit will be amended once their identities are discovered.
The suit alleges that the marketers are violating DeGeneres’ and Bullock’s right to publicity, and have violated California’s false advertising and unfair competition laws.