The FTC filed a complaint in 2019 alleging Utah-based essential oils company doTerra and its top executives made false and unsubstantiated health claims about their products’ ability to treat various diseases and health conditions. According to the complaint, doTerra claimed without scientific evidence that their essential oils could treat autism, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, flu, and many other illnesses better than FDA-approved drugs or treatments.
The FTC alleged these disease treatment claims violated the FTC Act’s prohibition on deceptive advertising. It also alleged that doTerra violated the FTC Act by telling distributors they could earn substantial income, despite more than half of all distributors earning nothing in a year. The FTC said these false earnings claims induced consumers to pay thousands of dollars to become distributors.
The doTerra executives named in the complaint included former CEO David Stirling, former acting CMOs David Hill and Paul Dean, and other directors and individuals responsible for product claims and distributor training.
In 2022, doTerra and its executives agreed to settle the FTC charges, paying $100,000 in civil penalties for the unsupported health claims and giving up over $1.8 million in ill-gotten gains from the false income claims. Under the settlement, doTerra and the executives are prohibited from making disease treatment and income claims without reliable scientific evidence.
The doTerra case highlights the FTC’s increased focus on health claims made by multi-level marketing companies about essential oils and nutritional supplements. The FTC is cracking down on unsupported claims these products can treat major diseases. This doTerra settlement reinforces that health claims must be backed by competent and reliable scientific evidence to not mislead consumers. It also shows the FTC will pursue false income claims by multi-level marketing companies that induce consumers into paying to become distributors.