Monat hair care company accused of using strong-arm legal tactics to silence critics

Company suing stylists for defamation
Posted at 9:00 PM, Mar 13, 2018

"So I tried it and I really loved it! Like I was like, oh my gosh! My hair feels really good! They have a men's line and a kids' line so the whole family can use it -- like I was very excited!"

But Erin Ostby's excitement quickly faded when she says her hair began falling out after using the Monat hair products she'd been selling.

"I was crying to my husband, not just over my hair, but what had I done?"  

She's what Monat calls a Market Partner -- someone who sells their shampoo and other hair care products on the company's multi-level marketing platform, which is mostly through social media.  

RELATED: Women claim Monat hair products causing balding, scalp sores

But the young mother had to walk away from an increasingly lucrative business when she says she could no longer stand by the products.

"I was very nervous to say anything because of the backlash I have seen of other people that spoke out about what was happening."

In three recently filed class action lawsuits against Monat, the company is accused of using strong-arm legal tactics to silence critics.

"We have to do that to protect ourselves from defamation," said Monat spokesperson Gene Grabowski, who would only agree to a phone interview. 

Toni Miller is one of the stylists Monat is suing for defamation.

"What I am seeing with this product in particular, it's not normal," Miller observed after working with clients who'd used Monat.

Monat claims people like Miller are engaged in a smear campaign designed to promote competing products.  

In their suit against her, they report 1,000 order cancellations in the last two months.

"When we tried to reason with our attackers who were bullying people online, bullying some of our market partners, bullying other customers and ridiculing them for using our product, we had to file a lawsuit to protect ourselves from the attacks," Grabowski said.

But Miller says Monat is the bully. The company sent a letter to Posare salon, threatening to sue the owner if she didn't silence Toni or fire her.  

As for consumers, Grabowski says, "Everyone is entitled to their opinion. By the way, there is not a constitutional right to complain about a company. A company has a right to respond any way it wants to." 

The Federal Trade Commission's Consumer Review Fairness Act "Protects consumers' ability to share their honest opinions about a business' products, services or conduct in any forum, including social media."  

But that's not enough. This request for a restraining order against Monat was filed March 7 in South Florida, asking a court to protect consumers against Monat's "Threats, harassment and intimidation."

Monat says one stylist has agreed to pay them to settle its claims against her.  

Miller is still fighting.  

Monat sent this statement for consumers: "If a consumer feels that he or she is having a negative reaction to MONAT products, we encourage them to speak with their Market Partner to obtain an intake form. The consumer can also contact MONAT Customer Service.