Consumer News

DOJ Orders doTerra Distributors to Pay $15,000 Each after Complaint

Complaints against additional distributors who hosted COVID webinars may be forthcoming.


Consumer News

DOJ Orders doTerra Distributors to Pay $15,000 Each after Complaint

In January 2022, received a consumer tip about five high-ranking distributors of the essential oils Multilevel Marketing – a way of distributing products or services in which the distributors earn income from their own retail sales and from retail sales made by their direct and indirect recruits. company doTerra, all current or retired medical professionals, deceptively touting a variety of doTerra products to prevent, treat and mitigate the symptoms of the COVID-19 virus in a series of Zoom presentations. Now, based on a complaint to the FTC, three of these distributors, Eliza Bacot, ACNP, Lauren Busch, RN, and Tina Wong, MD, have been sued by the Department of Justice at the request of the FTC for violating FTC law and the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act (CCPA).

At this time, has found no legal actions taken by the DOJ against the two other doTerra presenters, Kelly Couch, PA, and Lisa Ma, MD, or against the company. In response to a request for comment, the FTC said it could not find “any public actions we have taken against these individuals [Couch or Ma].” has yet to hear back from the DOJ. Nevertheless, it seems likely that complaints against Couch and Ma would be forthcoming as they are as culpable as their fellow distributors in violating FTC law and the CCPA.

Bacot, Wong and Busch have settled their cases. The distributors were all recognized in an edition of doTerra’s “leadership” magazine. Each has agreed to a $15,000 civil penalty and a laundry list of prohibitions and requirements for the next five to ten years. Included in these stipulated orders is a requirement that these doTerra distributors provide a copy of the order to all their “agents and representatives who participate in conduct related to the subject matter of the Order” for the next five years and that each individual that receives a copy of the order verify their receipt by signing and dating an acknowledgement, which no doubt, must include the defendants’ doTerra downlines.

Not only do the DOJ complaints focus on the distributors’ Jan. 12, Jan. 19 and Jan. 26 presentations, which were titled “The Path Forward: Protocols for the Current Climate,” but they also highlight other inappropriate activities by these defendants. For example, the complaint against Bacot includes a Jan. 31, 2022 Instagram post (that captured, below, two days after posting) in which Bacot explains everything a family needs to treat and mitigate the symptoms of COVID-19 (spoiler alert: it’s all about doTerra products).

Wong’s complaint asserts that she presented at a weekly Zoom webinar series, titled “The Doctors Are In,” that promoted doTerra products, and that on Jan. 27, 2022 Wong, who introduced herself as a board-certified pediatrician during the webinar, stated, among other things:

[E]ssential oils can penetrate through the cell membrane and work within the cell to kill viruses or to change their modulation, the way that they’re expressed. So essential oils are very effective because they can get into a cell. On Guard, in particular, is a great oil for this time because it really helps with antivirus. It’s a great flu buster. … I just want to say very quickly that garlic, black pepper oil and tea tree oil actually prevent the binding of the virus to your cells. … it acts like a guard dog at the surface of your cell. It prevents the virus from binding. … And one of the ways that lemon and geranium essential oil work inside the cell is that they don’t let the virus replicate itself. Pretty cool, right? You’ve all heard about like mRNA with the shot and everything. Well, lemon and geranium essential oil inhibit the mRNA transcription of the virus.

“The Doctors Are In” series, which also features Lisa Ma, has continued into 2023.

These doTerra distributors, who have now agreed to comply with the law when it comes to making health claims, were definitely singing a different tune last winter. When participants signed up for their COVID presentations they were told on the registration form that “Attendees are not allowed to reproduce this presentation, including sharing screenshots and photographs on social media, or any other from [sic] of reproduction of any form.” And after published a video highlighting some of their outrageous and illegal COVID claims on its YouTube page, Bacot, Wong, Ma and Busch tried to have the video permanently taken down, which successfully fought. In addition, both Bacot and her husband reached out to to inform us that Bacot does not make false claims, that we misrepresented their work, and we were “barking up the wrong tree here.”

These actions against some of doTerra’s highest ranking distributors are the latest additions to the company’s numerous encounters with regulators, which include:

  • A Sept. 22, 2014 warning letter from the FDA for, among other things, marketing its products as unapproved drugs that could prevent, treat and cure viruses.
  • An April 7, 2020 decision by the Direct Selling Self-Regulatory Council (DSSRC) following an investigation prompted by a complaint, stating that doTerra distributors had been making unsubstantiated health claims, as well as deceptive income representations, to sell products and promote the business opportunity.
  • An April 24, 2020 FTC warning letter to doTerra concerning deceptive health and income claims being used to sell its products and recruit new distributors during the COVID pandemic.
  • An Oct. 16, 2020 National Advertising Division (NAD) determination that doTerra did not have support for claims that its essential oils provide certain health benefits, including specific benefits for mood, emotions and the mind. NAD also determined that the evidence in the record was not a good fit for doTerra’s “Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade” claim, and recommended that the company discontinue the marketing claims at issue.
  • A Jan. 15, 2021 National Advertising Review Board decision affirming the NAD’s determination and recommendations.
  • And another DSSRC decision on Nov. 8, 2021, stating that it had reinvestigated doTerra and found that it was again using unsubstantiated health and earnings claims.

While these most recent actions by the DOJ and FTC should serve as a warning to every MLM distributor in the direct selling industry, the sad truth is that at least one MLM distributor, defendant Eliza Bacot, seems not to have learned her lesson yet as she is still making inappropriate health claims (posting a testimonial that doTerra products cured a skin condition) and deceptive income statements (including assertions of six-figure incomes and time/financial freedom) on her website, The Organic South.

The time has come, exploitative and deceptive marketing messages used by doTerra and its distributors must stop once and for all. reached out to doTerra for comment. Check back for updates.

Find more of our coverage on doTerra here.

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