Actress Gwyneth Paltrow owns a company called Goop, a new-age wellness business and lifestyle brand. It has recently agreed to pay $145,000 to settle a case of false advertising based on unfounded claims about products allegedly able to improve emotional, physical, and sexual health.
Among the products the company sells is a blend of essential oils touted as a remedy for depression, plus serums, crystals, “detox regimens, beauty products, kitchen tools and dishes, and more. Another product is egg-shaped jade stones which sell for $66, or quartz stones for $55. They are intended to be inserted into a woman’s vagina for the purpose of “getting better connected to the power within.” Additional benefits touted were improved vaginal muscle tone, hormonal balance, and positive feminine energy. The website further advises, “If you feel like the egg has been drained of energy, recharge it in the full moon just the way you would a crystal.”
The district attorneys (elected prosecutors of crimes) in 10 California counties filed a lawsuit against the company based on consumer protection laws, arguing that these claims about the alleged health benefits of the eggs and numerous additional health claims relating to other products have no foundation in real science. The case follows an investigation by the California Food, Drug and Medical Devices Task Force. Specifically, the case alleges, “The advertised medical claims were not supported by competent and reliable science.”
The crime of false advertising consists of false claims or misleading statements in advertisements intended to convince the public into buy goods or services.
The violation can be prosecuted by the district attorney or an individual who has been misled. The remedy when the prosecutor brings the case is an injunction (a court order requiring a party to discontinue specified unlawful action) and civil penalties (fines). Additionally, the wrongdoer may face a maximum of six months in jail. The remedy when an individual pursues the case is an injunction and restitution (reimbursement for the loss suffered by the person who was misled).
The case was recently settled with Goop agreeing to pay $145,000 in civil penalties and agreement by Goop to remove the unproven claims. Additionally, for customers who bought a vaginal egg, the company must refund the cost to purchasers wishing to return it. The eggs are still advertised on the website but gone are the earlier claims. The site now says “They invigorate our life force, . . ..and help provide self-love and wellbeing.”
Goop issued a statement saying the settlement does not indicate any liability on its part but rather an “honest disagreement,” and the company wanted to resolve the matter quickly.
Said the prosecutors, “The health and money of residents should never be put at risk by misleading advertising. We will vigilantly protect consumers against companies that promise health benefits without the support of good science, or any science.”
The executive director of the referenced task force said, “Any time a consumer sees a product that’s being marketed as a treatment or cure all, they need to be aware of that and should definitely talk to a health care provider before purchasing it.”
Paltrow launched the company ten years ago. It claims three million people visit its website every month. Further, the business asserts that it has tripled its revenue for the past two years, and is on track to more than double revenue this year.
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