Essential oil giant
Young Living, a multi level marketing company based in Lehi, UT, is one of the world’s largest and fastest growing sellers of essential oil products. The company sells a variety of essential oil-based personal care, aromatherapy and dietary supplement products. In 2019 the company was listed as the world’s 10th largest MLM with annual revenues of almost $2 billion by industry publication Direct Selling News, which publishes an annual list. Not every company chooses to submit financial information for the assembly of the list every year, and Young Living was not listed in the 2020 version. In 2018, the company ranked 15th with an annual revenue figure of $1.52 billion. In 2016 the company ranked 20th on the list with a reported $1 billion revenue.
In the NAD ruling, which was the result of a challenge by competitor S.C. Johnson & Son Inc, Young Living was directed to drop the ‘therapeutic grade’ claim on its products because the claim “conveys an unsupported message that the essential oils confer a beneficial healing physical or mental health effect on the body or mind.”
Young Living countered that it did not agree with that assessment, saying that the results of its consumer research show that end users are not inferring a treatment benefit from the term ‘therapeutic grade.’
NAD: Lack of support for claims
NAD however evaluated the same consumer research and concluded that those some consumers could in fact be making a connection of treatment benefit. NAD went further to say that Young Living did not submit sufficient scientific evidence to back claims that its essential oils:
- Will calm or relax consumers when applied or diffused, such as Dragon Time “can help promote feelings of stability and calm during occasional times of moodiness”;
- Will help relieve consumers’ feelings of anxiety when applied (or diffused), such as Bergamot Oil “[m]ay help relieve tension during times of occasional stress”;
- Will help consumers sleep, such as RC oil “May help support restful sleep” and other sleep related claims;
- Will bring product users clarity, focus, or alertness when applied (or diffused) as directed, such as “Brain Power is a blend of essential oils . . . to promote a sense of clarity and focus when used aromatically”;
- Can be used to treat symptoms associated with depression, such as Davana oil “boosts your positive outlook on life”; and
- Will help consumers increase or maintain their energy levels when applied (or diffused) as directed, such as Peppermint “helps to maintain energy levels when applied topically.”
Company to appeal
Young Living issued a statement in which it said it “disagrees with, and will appeal to NARB (National Advertising Division Review Board), NAD’s failure to credit valid survey data and published research in support of ‘therapeutic grade’ claims and claims that certain, carefully formulated products promote stability, calmness, relaxation, sleep, stress and tension relief, clarity, focus, energy, rational decision making, and alertness.”
Class action lawsuit
The NAD decision is not the only legal and regulatory hurdle currently facing Young Living. In April, the company lost a bid to force a class action lawsuit filed in California to go to arbitration. The case, which alleges that Young Living’s business model constitutes an illegal pyramid scheme, is now set to go to trial.
The National Advertising Division is part of Better Business Bureau’s National Programs. NAD cases are mostly brought by competitors, but the organization also independently reviews claims, especially recently in regards to the many products popping up that are making coronavirus claims.