Watchdog group accuses Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop of 'deceptive' marketing claims

PHOTO: Gwyneth Paltrow at a book signing event, May 19, 2017, in Seattle.PlayMat Hayward/Getty Images
WATCH Goop accused of using 'deceptive' marketing claims

Goop, the lifestyle brand founded by actress Gwyneth Paltrow, is the subject of a complaint in California filed by a watchdog group that calls the company’s marketing claims “deceptive” and “unsubstantiated.”

"Goop, with this kind of deceptive marketing is targeting a very vulnerable population who are desperate to treat, cure, prevent certain ailments," Bonnie Patten, the executive director of Truth in Advertising, Inc., told ABC News. "In exploiting this sort of health marketing, they’re really putting profits over people."

"It’s absolutely unacceptable and a company like this should know better than to make these claims," Patten continued.

Truth in Advertising, a Connecticut-based watchdog group founded by Patten five years ago, sent a letter of complaint Tuesday to the California Food Drug and Medical Device Task Force asking the task force to open an investigation in Goop’s marketing claims and "take appropriate enforcement action."

Truth in Advertising began looking into Goop -- which Paltrow has grown into a brand that inclues an e-commerce division selling everything from clothing to a $66 Jade Egg to help tone the pelvic floor –- earlier this summer after reading news reports about the company’s controversial wellness advice.

"We collected a sampling of around 50 examples of inappropriate marketing claims," Patten said, using an article that featured the carnelian stone as a treatment for infertility and menstruation pains as an example. "Our focus was looking at Goop products that were for sale or that they were promoting on third-party websites for sale."

The watchdog group sent a letter to Goop on Aug. 11 and quickly initiated a dialogue with the brand’s counsel about changing the content on Goop’s website, according to Patten.

When Goop did not make the changes Truth in Advertising asked for within a 10-day period, the watchdog group went public with their complaint.

The two attorneys cited in the letter –- deputy and assistant district attorneys in the consumer protection units of two of the 10 counties in the task force –- confirmed to ABC News they received the letter from Truth in Advertising.

"We [the task force] received the complaint and we will handle it like all other complaints that we review," said Francisca Allen, a deputy district attorney in the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office.

Goop told ABC News in a statement that the company is "receptive to feedback" and responded "promptly and in good faith" to Truth in Advertising’s initial letter, but the timeframe and demands were "not reasonable."

"Goop is dedicated to introducing unique products and offerings and encouraging constructive conversation surrounding new ideas," the statement read. "We are receptive to feedback and consistently seek to improve the quality of the products and information referenced on our site."

The statement continued, "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."

Truth in Advertising has posted a database on its website of the 51 examples of what it says are inappropriate marketing claims made by Goop. The examples come from claims made on Goop.com as well as from the "In Goop Health" conference the company hosted in Los Angeles in June, which Patten said Truth in Advertising officials attended.

"Our contention is that Goop does not have the level of evidence for any of these disease treatment claims they’re making," she said. "They don’t have randomized, control, double blind clinical trials tested on humans that they would need to substantiate these claims."

Paltrow, a 44-year-old Oscar-winning actress, returned to Goop as CEO last spring after taking some time away from the company, which she founded in 2008 as a newsletter for friends curated with her favorite travel recommendations, shops and recipes.

Over the years, Goop put terms like "vaginal steaming" and "conscious uncoupling" into the popular lexicon after being promoted on the site and by Paltrow.

The California-based lifestyle brand is now, "a place for GP to introduce some of the incredible experts who have mentored her throughout her life to a wider audience, and a place where readers can find suggestions about where to shop, eat, and stay from a trusted friend —- not from an anonymous, crowd-sourced recommendation engine," according to Goop's website.

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