The manufacturers of Nurofen will be fined $6 million for misleading consumers.
Earlier this year, the ACCC won its case against pharmaceutical giant Reckitt Benckiser over the company’s “specific pain” range.
The Federal Court found the products were misleading because they all contained the same active ingredient and did the same thing.
It handed the company a $1.7 million fine, but today that was increased to $6 million after the consumer watchdog appealed. The ACCC had originally asked the Federal Court to impose a fine of $6 million.
The company has also been ordered to pay the ACCC’s costs.
The specific pain range claimed to “target” back pain, migraine, tension headache or period pain, when they in fact they all contained the same active ingredient, ibuprofen lysine 342mg.
The ACCC argued consumers may have thought they needed to buy multiple products to achieve adequate pain relief.
Appeal Justices Jagot, Yates and Bromwich said the products were “inherently misleading”.
“Contrary to the representations, ibuprofen does not target any particular type of pain. It treats all types of pain precisely the same way.”
Between 2011 and 2015 the company sold 5.9 million packets of the specific pain medication, yielding revenue of $45 million.
In a statement, Reckitt Benckiser said it was “disappointed” with court’s decision to impose a higher penalty.
“Nurofen is disappointed by this decision as it considers the original penalty of the Federal Court in April was appropriate in all the circumstances,” the statement read.
“Nurofen did not intend to mislead consumers, however we recognise that we could have done more to assist our consumers in navigating the Nurofen Pain Specific Range.”
When lodging the appeal, ACCC chairman Rod Sims said the fine imposed would not deter companies from breaching consumer laws.
“It is disappointing a fine of $1.7 million was imposed for a company this size,” he said.
“It is not really going to catch people’s attention and send the deterrence message we need.
“The judge found that Reckitt Benckiser had made many millions in profits from the sale of 5.9 million units of Nurofen at around 8,500 outlets nationwide over the five-year period.”
In December, the Federal Court ordered that all Nurofen specific pain products be removed from retail sale within three months, and the company post corrective notices in newspapers and on its website.
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