Goop, the controversial wellness company founded by Hollywood actress Gwyneth Paltrow, will pay $145,000 in civil penalties to settle allegations that it made unscientific claims about the health benefits of three of its products.
The offending products are the notorious Jade Egg, a US$66 item designed to be inserted into women’s vaginas to supposedly improve their sex lives, the “heart-activating” US$55 Rose Quartz Egg and the $22 Inner Judge Flower Essence Blend, a tincture that Goop claims “assists in the clearing of guilt, shame, self-criticism and blame.”
Goop made health claims about the products “that were not supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence,” the Orange County District Attorney’s office said in a statement.
The company will also offer full refunds to California consumers who bought the products in question between Jan. 12 and Aug. 31, 2017.
In addition to the refunds and settlement, Goop is also barred from making any claims about the efficacy of its products unless it can back them up with solid scientific evidence, and may not manufacture or sell any falsely-advertised or misbranded medical devices for the next five years.
“It’s important to hold companies accountable for unsubstantiated claims, especially when the claims have the potential to affect women’s health,” said Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas.
California’s crackdown on Goop stems from an August 2017 complaint, filed by advertising watchdog group Truth In Advertising (TINA.org), which outlined over 50 specific cases in which the company claimed “either expressly or implicitly” that its products, or third-party products that it promotes, can treat and cure a wide variety of ailments.
TINA.org previously sent Paltrow a letter warning her that a complaint would be filed with regulators unless Goop cleaned up its “deceptive” marketing campaigns within a week, but the watchdog says Goop ended up making “only limited changes.”
Goop responded with a statement calling the claims “unsubstantiated and unfounded” and accusing TINA.org of making threats under arbitrary and unreasonable deadlines.
TINA.org hailed the Wednesday settlement as a victory for consumers.
“For far too long Paltrow and Goop have been taking advantage of susceptible consumers by using deceptive and misleading health claims to sell their wares and turn a profit,” said Bonnie Patten, executive director of TINA.org. “This settlement makes clear that no health and wellness company is above the law, and that Goop’s past illegal marketing tactics will no longer be tolerated.”
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Goop’s products and advice have been the subject of controversy for years.
The jade egg was famously slammed by gynecologist Dr. Jen Gunter, who said in a January 2017 blog post that the product could increase the risk of bacterial infection. Goop responded by reminding Dr. Gunter that “the thing about science and medicine is that it evolves all the time.”
The company even attracted the ire of NASA after it promoted “Body Vibes” stickers that it claimed contained “NASA space suit material” to help address energy imbalances, something one former NASA scientist told Gizmodo was “a load of BS.”
CEO Paltrow attracted widespread mockery after a June 2017 appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live, during which she was unable to explain how the Jade Egg works, and joked, “I don’t know what the f*** we talk about.”
Goop — which began as a newsletter in Paltrow’s kitchen but is now worth $250-million, according to a recent New York Times feature — has recently announced plans to expand into Canada, much to the chagrin of medical experts.