Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle retailer Goop has been catnip for doctors and health experts who’ve repeatedly debunked the company’s claims about its products. A chief target: the jade eggs for vaginas that Goop said could do everything from fix your hormone levels to help with bladder control (but that gynecologists say are dangerous).
Now the eggs have landed Goop in a legal snafu. This week, a group of government lawyers slapped the company with $145,000 in civil penalties for “unsubstantiated” marketing claims.
A task force made up of prosecutors from 10 counties in California investigated Goop and found the company was misleading consumers by making statements not backed by scientific evidence. The investigation comes after Truth in Advertising, a consumer watchdog, alerted the task force to more than 50 problematic health claims on Goop’s site.
The prosecutors’ investigation focused on three products:
- The jade egg and the rose quartz egg that Goop sold with claims they could “balance hormones, regulate menstrual cycles, prevent uterine prolapse, and increase bladder control”
- Inner Judge Flower Essence Blend, said to prevent depression
On Tuesday, Goop reached a settlement with the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, agreeing to pay the $145,000 fine and to reimburse any customer who bought the three products and requests a refund.
If the rumors are true and Goop is worth $250 million, the fine won’t hurt too much. But the most impactful part of the settlement is what happens next: Goop is now barred from making any claims about the efficacy of its products that aren’t backed by reliable science, and from selling “misbranded, unapproved, or falsely-advertised medical devices,” according to the Orange County District Attorney. That means we should see fewer examples of over-the-top Goopshit on the site.
In a statement, Erica Moore, Goop’s chief financial officer, denied the company misled customers and framed the settlement as a learning experience:
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…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.
This isn’t the end of the jade egg
Don’t think these products will go away anytime soon. The $66 jade egg and $55 quartz egg — of which the company sold 3,000 — are still for sale at Goop.com. But the claims that accompany them have been watered down to “ensure compliance” with the terms of the settlement, the New York Times noted.
So Goop now says the eggs will increase “sexual energy and pleasure” and boost “positive energy and love.” (The Judge flowers were taken off the site for reasons unrelated to the settlement.) While these statements are certainly woo-filled, they’re not as dangerous as the earlier medical promises.
Over the years, Goop has been subject to a barrage of criticisms, and its empire has only expanded. And it often seems as though Goop has relished the bad press. In a Times profile of Paltrow, journalist Taffy Brodesser-Akner reported that every time there’s blowback about some dubious vaginal maintenance routine or detox therapy featured on Goop, it creates what Paltrow called “cultural firestorms” that draw traffic to the site.
“I can monetize those eyeballs,” Paltrow told a Harvard business class. So it’s possible that this new settlement, instead of denting Goop, may only help it grow. But the challenge for the site will be selling things like egg-shaped vagina rocks if it can’t make fantastical statements about them.