Appeal sees Nurofen fine raised to $6 million
RECKITT Benckiser's $1.7 million fine for misleading claims about targeted pain relief has been increased to $6 million after an appeal by the consumer watchdog.
The Federal Court ordered the Nurofen manufacturer to pay $1.7 million in April after the drugmaker was found guilty of breaching consumer law.
In December, the Federal Court found that Reckitt Benckiser had engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct by claiming its Nurofen Specific Pain products treated a particular type of pain, when this was not the case.
The products each contained the same active ingredient, ibuprofen lysine 342mg.
"The ACCC will submit to the Full Court of the Federal Court that $1.7 million in penalties imposed on a company the size of Reckitt Benckiser does not act as an adequate deterrent and might be viewed as simply a cost of doing business," ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said in May.
"This is particularly the case when the judge found that Reckitt Benckiser had made many millions in profits from sales of 5.9 million units of these products at around 8500 outlets during the relevant period."
In a statement, a Reckitt Benckiser spokeswoman said the company was "disappointed" by the decision, as it considers the original penalty was "appropriate in all of the circumstances".
"Nurofen is considering its position with its legal advisers," she said. "It is important to note that not all Nurofen Pain products are formulated the same. The Nurofen products are comprised of different formulations of ibuprofen, which require specific manufacturing processes.
"The Specific-Pain Range contains ibuprofen lysine - a unique formulation in the Nurofen range that is absorbed faster than the regular ibuprofen contained in standard Nurofen. All Nurofen products, which have the same active ingredient, pack-size, format and formulation, have the same manufacturer's recommended retail price.
"The Nurofen Specific Pain Range was introduced with the intention to provide easy navigation of pain relief options, particularly within the grocery environment where pharmacy support is not available.
"In 2015, Nurofen accepted that the representations made on the Nurofen Specific Pain Range web page and packaging may have misled consumers, and at that time Nurofen consented to the Court orders.
"Nurofen did not intend to mislead consumers, however we recognise that we could have done more to assist our consumers in navigating the Nurofen Specific Pain Range. That is, to show that each of the products in the range is equally effective for the other pains indicated on the Nurofen Specific Pain Range packaging."
The company is also facing a separate class action lawsuit brought by consumers who are seeking millions of dollars in refunds.