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The INSIDER Summary:
- A non-profit group called Truth in Advertising recently investigated Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle website Goop.
- They filed a complaint asking two California district attorneys’ offices to investigate Goop.
Now, after conducting an investigation into Goop’s product descriptions, a non-profit called Truth In Advertising alleges that Goop’s marketing tactics are in violation of FTC law. It’s requesting an official investigation.
Earlier this summer, Truth In Advertising began to investigate Goop.
Connecticut-based Truth In Advertising (TINA.org) is an independently funded non-profit that aims to fight false advertising and deceptive marketing. It’s been around since 2013.
“We had started to see that Goop was getting some media attention, and when we looked at the site, we saw some red flags,” TINA.org’s executive director Bonnie Patten told INSIDER.
On Tuesday, TINA.org released the results of its investigation, claiming that Goop markets some of its own products (and promotes third-party products) using “deceptive,” “illegal” health-related claims that aren’t backed up by solid scientific evidence. Now, they’ve filed a complaint with two California district attorneys’ offices, asking for an official investigation.
“The bottom line here is they’re using deceptive marketing to exploit consumers, and specifically women, to buy products that can’t live up to the claims that are being made,” Patten said. “And that’s just really terrible.”
So what makes a health claim problematic?
Patten explained it like this: According to Federal Trade Commission (FTC) law, companies can’t advertise that their products will diagnose, cure, treat, prevent, or improve diseases or disorders unless those statements are backed by “solid proof.” That typically means high quality peer-reviewed trials done in humans, Patten said.
Let’s look at Goop’s infamous vaginal jade egg as an example. On its website Goop claimed that the egg could “increase […] hormonal balance.” But search for scientific studies proving this point and you’ll come up empty-handed. One Goop post even says that “There are currently no scientific studies proving (or disproving) the effectiveness of a jade egg practice.”
But the jade egg isn’t the only offender, according to TINA.org.
The group says it identified 51 times when Goop used “deceptive” health claims to market its own products or third-party products.
The fact that Goop writes about these kinds of “remedies” isn’t illegal in and of itself. The problem, Patten explained, is when the company markets these products using health-related claims that aren’t proven to be true.
“What we’re talking about here is commercial speech,” she said. “So the items we looked at were ones that Goop either sells directly on their site or has the potential to profit from because they have links to third-party sites.”
On August 11, TINA.org sent a complaint letter to Goop and Paltrow herself.
“We intend to notify government regulators that Goop is engaged in a deceptive marketing campaign unless, by August 18, 2017, you show us that you have taken action to remove the inappropriate health claims […] and made every effort to alert Goop customers of these issues,” the letter read.
And Goop did make some changes based on the complaints, both Patten and Goop told INSIDER.
The description of the jade egg, for example, no longer says anything about hormonal balance, and the descriptions of some Body Vibes stickers — a third-party product Goop links to — have also been changed, according to Patten.
TINA.org and goop.comBut TINA.org didn’t feel that the tweaks were enough, so they went ahead with the original plan. On August 22, the group filed a complaint with two district attorneys’ offices in California, urging the officials to “commence an investigation” and take action against the company, if appropriate. That’s where things stand right now.
A spokesperson for Goop told INSIDER that the company responded to TINA’s complaint, but “unfortunately, [TINA] provided limited information and made threats under arbitrary deadlines which were not reasonable under the circumstances.”
The statement called TINA’s claims “unsubstantiated and unfounded,” but said Goop would “continue to evaluate our products and our content and make those improvements that we believe are reasonable and necessary in the interests of our community of users.”
At this point, it’s hard to say what the ultimate outcome of TINA.org’s investigation will be.
“Our hope is that all inappropriate health-related claims are taken down. That they do an audit of their entire website and they clean it up,” Patten said. “I’m confident that that will happen either voluntarily — or that they’ll be forced to do it by regulators.”
Goop’s full statement in response to the investigation:
Goop is dedicated to introducing unique products and offerings and encouraging constructive conversation surrounding new ideas. We are receptive to feedback and consistently seek to improve the quality of the products and information referenced on our site. We responded promptly and in good faith to the initial outreach from representatives of TINA and hoped to engage with them to address their concerns. Unfortunately, they provided limited information and made threats under arbitrary deadlines which were not reasonable under the circumstances. Nevertheless, while we believe that TINA’s description of our interactions is misleading and their claims unsubstantiated and unfounded, we will continue to evaluate our products and our content and make those improvements that we believe are reasonable and necessary in the interests of our community of users.
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