Macy’s and Forever 21 apologize and Facebook hit with $5B fine

Forever 21 accused of “fat shaming”

Forever 21 has apologized for a promotion that saw it include an Atkins Diet Bar with online orders, including those containing plus-sized clothing. That led to accusations of “fat shaming,” although Forever 21 said the promotion was merely an “oversight.”

While initial reports said that the bars were exclusively sent to people who ordered plus-sized items, the fashion retailer said in a statement today that the bars were included with every order.

“From time to time, Forever 21 surprises our customers with free test products from third parties in their e-commerce orders,” the company stated. “The freebie items in question were included in all online orders, across all sizes and categories, for a limited time and have since been removed. This was an oversight on our part and we sincerely apologize for any offence this may have caused to our customers, as this was not our intention in any way.”

Macy’s accused of “fat shaming”

Macy’s was also accused of fat shaming this week for selling dinner plates that linked portion sizes to jean sizes. The novelty plates featured three rings, with the smallest reading “skinny jeans,” the middle ring reading “favorite jeans” and the largest ring reading “mom jeans.”

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The controversy erupted when a writer named Alie Ward tweeted a picture of the plates on display at Macy’s flagship store in New York, accompanied by the message “How can I get these plates from @Macys banned in all 50 states.”

Macy’s responded with a tweet acknowledging that it had “missed the mark” on the product and that the plates would be removed from its locations.

The plates were created by a company called Pourtions, which described them as a “humorous + healthy way to watch what you eat + drink.” They are still available on its website, which features a “mini-festo” that reads: “Walk down any street today and one thing becomes immediately clear: we have really let ourselves go. Waistlines are exploding like the national debt. Arteries are jammed like Grand Central Station at rush hour. And there are plenty of helpings of blame to go around — fast food, slow metabolism, excessive elbow-bending, and portion sizes that have increased exponentially.”

Facebook agrees to $5 billion fine in FTC settlement

Facebook has agreed to pay a record US$5 billion fine for violating consumers’ privacy and pledged to improve oversight of its data privacy practices.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission said that the fine is almost 20 times greater than the largest privacy or data security penalty ever imposed worldwide, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. The settlement follows a more than one year investigation into the social media network.

The settlement also requires Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg to personally certify that the company is in compliance with new privacy strictures. Facebook is now required to report instances where the data of 500 or more of its users has been compromised, as well as its efforts to solve the problems.

The WSJ report quotes Facebook’s general counsel Colin Stretch as saying that the agreement “will mark a sharper turn towards privacy, on a different scale than anything we’ve done in the past.”

Consumers continue to remain highly distrustful of Facebook when it comes to protecting their personal information. In a March poll conducted by The Wall Street Journal and NBC News, 60% of respondents said they trusted the social media network “not at all,” compared with 37% for Google and 28% for Amazon.

Also this week, the U.S. Justice Department announced a sweeping review of whether the leading tech firms are stifling competition, posing a new threat for tech giants like Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple.

The antitrust inquiry under U.S. Attorney General William Barr could increase the “already considerable” regulatory pressures facing these companies says the report. The report will include an examination of how tech firms have grown in size and clout, and expanded their reach into additional businesses.

Interpublic, Publicis report Q2 earnings

Interpublic Group (IPG) saw revenues increase 5.4% to $2.52 billion in the second quarter, with organic growth of 3%. In an earnings call with analysts, IPG chair and CEO Michael Roth said clients “remain in an investment mode” with the holding company.

Roth said that headwinds, particularly in its U.S. operations, led to “a little hiccup,” but the company is “well positioned to both resume market share gains and leverage a growing economy in our largest market.” The company reported U.S. growth of just 0.6% for the quarter, compared with 4.6% growth last year and 6.5% growth internationally.

Publicis Groupe, meanwhile, reported disappointing second quarter results last week, with its net revenues increasing just 0.1% to 2.23 billion Euros. North American net revenues declined 1.7%, with Publicis noting that “continued attrition in traditional advertising” is negatively impacting its U.S. business.

Explaining its disappointing organic growth, Publicis Groupe chair and CEO Arthur Sadoun noted that clients are suffering from “various pressures” leading to budget cuts and fee reductions in sectors in which it has a disproportionate share of market. At the same time, he said, the “profound transformation” Publicis Groupe has been undertaking has penalized it in the short term.


Chris Powell