Court triples Nurofen fine to $6m over misleading packaging claims

In a bid to deter other “would-be wrongdoers”, the Federal Court has more than tripled a fine for FMCG giant Reckitt Benckiser after it was found guilty of claiming Nurofen could target specific areas of pain.

NurofenThe victory by the consumer watchdog, which launched the action almost two years ago, sees the fine increased from $1.7 to the $6m, the amount originally called for by the ACCC. The larger sum was necessary to deter other companies from similar actions, the watchdog argued.

The issue was first highlighted by the Therapeutic Goods Administration three years ago when it challenged Nurofen’s claims of offering “targeted relief”.

Despite court orders interim packaging allows Nurofen to highlight specific pain until December 31

Despite court orders interim packaging allows Nurofen to highlight specific pain until December 31

However, the offending packaging has remained on the shelves, altered with stickers saying it was effective on all pain, despite the court ruling  in December last year, and will not be fully removed from shelves until December 31.

The fine is a record for misleading conduct in Australia, after the ACCC appealed the original fine describing it as “manifestly inadequate“.

ACCC chairman Rod Sims said the increased fine as a victory for consumers.

“The ACCC welcomes this decision, having originally submitted that a penalty of $6m or higher was appropriate given the longstanding and widespread nature of the conduct, and the substantial sales and profit that was made,” Sims said.

“The ACCC will continue to advocate for higher penalties for breaches of Australia’s consumer laws to ensure that they act as an effective deterrent and are not simply viewed as a cost of doing business.”

In its ruling on the appeal the court said: “The objective of any penalty in this case must be to ensure that Reckitt Benckiser and other ‘would-be wrongdoers’ think twice and decide not to act against the strong public interest.”

The case centred on Nurofen’s targeted pain products which were marketed separately as specific for migraine pain, period pain, tension headache and back pain, but which all contained the exact same active ingredient.

The claims were also called out on an episode of The Checkout.



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.