ACCC targets Reckitt Benckiser alleging false and misleading packaging claims on Nurofen

Consumer watchdog the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is to launch court action against the makers of Nurofen alleging it misled consumers over claims on its packaging that its medication can provide pain relief to specific areas.

The ACCC will take Reckitt Benckiser to Federal Court at the end of the month alleging products for back pain, period pain, migraine pain, and tension headache misled consumers into thinking that they were designed and formulated to treat a particular type of pain, despite being identical.

“In this case, we allege that consumers have been misled into purchasing Nurofen Specific Pain Products under the belief that each product is specifically designed for and effective in treating a particular type of pain, when this is not the case,” said Rod Sims ACCC Chairman.

The court action comes after Reckitt Benckiser was reprimanded by the Therapeutic Goods Administration in 2013 over its claims of “targeted relief” and forced to remove “any representations that the advertised products target the source of pain or cause of pain”.

The TV ad Reckitt Benckiser was forced to remove from air in 2013.

Sims said the ACCC would allege Nurofen’s representations were false or misleading because the caplets in all four Nurofen specific pain products are identical and each contain the same active ingredient, ibuprofen lysine 342mg but were being sold at a price double that of the normal product.

“The retail price of the Nurofen Specific Pain Products is significantly above that of other comparable analgesic products that also act as general pain relievers,” said Sims. Recent price sampling conducted by the ACCC revealed that these products are being sold at retail prices around double that of Nurofen’s standard ibuprofen products and standard products of its competitors.”

Reckitt Benkiser has denied it breached consumer law and noted the current packaging now complies with Therapeutic Goods Administration rules.

“Nurofen disputes any allegation of contravention of consumer law in relation to its pain-specific packaging,” said a spokeswoman.

“All Nurofen packs are approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and comply with TGA’s regulatory guidelines. Nurofen pain-specific products provide easier navigation of pain-relief options in the grocery environment for consumers who are experiencing a particular type of pain.”

Reckitt Benkiser markets and supplies a range of consumer health and household brands, including Nurofen, Mortein, Clearasil, Finish, Airwick and Gaviscon.

The ACCC is seeking declarations, injunctions, an order for the publication of corrective notices, penalties and costs with the matter is listed for March 31 in the Federal Court.

“The ACCC takes false or misleading claims about the efficacy of health and medical products very seriously,” said Sims. “Indeed, truth in advertising and consumer issues in the health and medical sectors are ACCC enforcement priorities in 2015.”

Nic Christensen 


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.