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Duped by Goop? You may be entitled to a refund

Duped by Goop? You may be entitled to a refund
[Photo: Flickr user Frantic1892]

Goop is paying a price for its alternative methods. Gwyneth Paltrow’s wildly successful company has agreed to pay $145,000 in civil penalties to settle a lawsuit brought by 10 California counties that claim its product advertisements lacked reliable scientific evidence, reports the L.A. Times. Some customers are now able to seek refunds.

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“It’s important to hold companies accountable for unsubstantiated claims, especially when the claims have the potential to affect women’s health,” Orange County district attorney Tony Rackauckas, whose office joined in on the lawsuit, said in a statement.

The three targeted products include the $66 Goop jade egg and $55 rose quartz egg, which are both still available for purchase. The jade variety promises to “increase sexual energy and pleasure” and help “connect the second chakra (the heart) and yoni for optimal self-love and well being.” Such claims have not gone over well with the greater medical community. Jen Gunter, an OB/GYN for Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco, called it “the biggest load of garbage” in an interview with The Washington Post.

The lawsuit also takes aim at $22 Inner Judge Flower Essence Blend, an “organic floral blend that assists in the clearing of guilt, shame, self-criticism, and blame.” The essential oils can supposedly be used to help prevent “shame spirals” that lead toward depressive states.

In a statement provided to Fast Company, Goop says there is “an honest disagreement about these claims,” but wanted to settle the matter quickly and amicably. The settlement, stressed a rep, does not indicate any liability on Goop’s part. The company reportedly did not receive any complaints regarding product claims, though is “happy to fully refund any goop customer who has purchased any of the challenged products.”

“Goop provides a forum for practitioners to present their views and experiences with various products like the jade egg. The law, though, sometimes views statements like this as advertising claims, which are subject to various legal requirements,” said Erica Moore, Goop’s chief financial officer, in the statement. “The Task Force assisted us in applying those laws to the content we published, and we appreciate their guidance in this matter as we move from a pioneer in this space to an established wellness authority.”

The not-so-fine print

It should be noted that Goop content often includes a disclaimer: “This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.”

This isn’t the first time Goop has faced criticism for its exploratory philosophy. Last year, the advertising watchdog group Truth in Advertising (TINA) filed a complaint to two California district attorneys who are part of the California Food, Drug, and Medical Device Task Force. In the letter, the nonprofit claimed it conducted its own investigation into Goop for using “unsubstantiated, and therefore deceptive, health and disease-treatment claims to market many of its products.”

TINA said it found more than 50 instances in which Goop “claims, either expressly or implicitly, that its products–or third-party products that it promotes–can treat, cure, prevent, alleviate the symptoms of, or reduce the risk of developing a number of ailments.” This includes crystals to “treat infertility,” that walking barefoot “cures insomnia,” and that Goop’s signature perfume “improves memory” and can “work as antibiotics.”

Goop is not one to shy away from controversy–or responding to it—and has even released an open letter defending its practices. The site said it anticipates questions surrounding its content, but took issue with attacks on its doctors and professionals.

“We always welcome conversation. That’s at the core of what we’re trying to do,” read the letter. “Being dismissive–of discourse, of questions from patients, of practices that women might find empowering or healing, of daring to poke at a long-held belief–seems like the most dangerous practice of all.”

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