Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop—a “lifestyle brand” peddling pseudoscience in the form of wellness—just settled a lawsuit claiming the stated health benefits of the company’s products weren’t scientifically supported. Specifically, its vaginal eggs.
The lawsuit, which was brought on by ten counties in the US state of California, alleged that Goop’s two vaginal eggs—the Jade Egg and the Rose Quartz Egg—as well as its Inner Judge Flower Essence Blend were misleadingly advertised. Goop alleged the blend could treat depression, and that the $66 eggs you shove up your vagina “increases chi, orgasms; vaginal muscle tone, hormonal balance, and feminine energy in general.”
“A lot of things here are concerning,” Jen Gunter, an OB/GYN based in San Francisco, told Gizmodo in January of last year, discussing Goop’s vaginal eggs. “For one, this is a porous rock you’re putting in there, not medical-grade silicon, and who knows what bacteria can lodge in those nooks and crannies. Then there’s also this magical belief that putting something inside you can do something to your aura or chi.”
The conditions of Tuesday’s settlement require Goop to refund customers who bought any of the three aforementioned products between 12 January 2017 and 31 August 2017, according to Ars Technica. The settlement also states that the company has to pay $145,000 (£112,350) in civil penalties and $294.83 (£228.44) in investigative costs. That’s pocket change for the company that raised $50 million (£39 million) in Series C funding in March, putting the company’s value at an estimated $250 million (£194 million).
Goop also agreed in the settlement to stop making claims “regarding the efficacy or effects of any of its products without possessing competent and reliable scientific evidence that substantiates the claims,” Ars Technica reported.
Goop spokesperson Heather Wilson characterised the claims made against the company by the California Food, Drug and Medical Device Task Force as an “honest disagreement.” Wilson said in an email to Gizmodo that “the company wanted to settle this matter quickly and amicably” and that the settlement “does not indicate any liability on Goop’s part.” She added that Goop hasn’t received any complaints with regards to the lawsuit’s claims about the products. Wilson also noted that Goop is developing a wellness portal—“a world-class science and research team—from the Western and Eastern worlds—who are constructing a best-in-class scientific and regulatory portal for vetting all ingredients and claims for every ingestible product that we sell on Goop,” according to the site.
“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,” Erica Moore, chief financial officer of Goop, said in a 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.”
Goop’s health claims about vaginal eggs and its floral blend aren’t the only ones that have been called into question. Nonprofit advertising watchdog Truth in Advertising (TINA) filed a formal complaint against Goop with the California Food Drug and Medical Device Task Force in August of last year with regards to more than 50 instances of purportedly misleading advertising.
“The examples we provided [in the complaint] are not iffy examples,” Truth in Advertising executive director Bonnie Patten told Gizmodo in September of last year. “There is a claim on the Goop website that a crystal can treat infertility, and I just really feel like saying things like that is taking advantage of a vulnerable population with very serious health challenges and exploiting that for financial gain.” [Ars Technica]