Reckitt Benckiser, the company behind the popular pain relief pills Nurofen, has been fined $1.7 million by the Federal Court for misleading consumers with “targeted pain” products.
Late last year, the court found that Nurofen’s ‘Back Pain’, ‘Period Pain’, ‘Migraine Pain’ and ‘Tension Headache’ pills were identical, with the same active ingredient, and no more effective at treating different types of specific pain.
As a result of the verdict, the existing products were removed from shelves over three months in a deal with the ACCC and the packaging changed to disclose to that the products worked just as well with other forms of pain.
Today the court decided on a penalty, hitting Reckitt Benckiser with a $1.7 million fine, the result of legal action by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) over the products, which the consumer watchdog argued successfully were misleading.
But the ACCC did not get the $6 million penalty it sought, with Justice Edelman concluding that while consumers potentially suffered financial loss due to the price premium, the product still worked.
ACCC chairman Rod Sims said his organisation will consider the judgment.
“The ACCC had submitted that a penalty of at least $6 million was appropriate in order to send a strong deterrence message and due to the longstanding and widespread nature of the conduct and the substantial sales and profit that was made by selling the product,” he said.
The decision comes three years after the ABC consumer affairs show “The Checkout” flagged this issue, with presenter Julian Morrow saying consumer paid 70% more for the “targeted” product “for exactly the same results”.
“The only difference between any of these is the price,” Morrow said.
Watch the clip here:
The Nurofen specific pain range was given a “Shonky” Award by Choice back in 2010.
Nurofen says it did not set out to mislead consumers and co-operated with the ACCC.