Nurofen fined $1.7 million for misleading packaging

Nurofen maker Reckitt Benckiser has today been ordered to pay a $1.7 million penalty for the use of misleading packaging on some of their pain relief products.

Federal Court Justice James Edelman said he had based the penalty on the additional profits made from contravening the law. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission had asked for the company to be fined $6 million.

Consumer group Choice spokesman Tom Godfrey said in a statement big global companies should pay fines that fit the crime.

He said bigger fines were needed “to send a clear signal to big business that there is no profit to be made in deceiving consumers”.

“Choice first called the company out for its deceptive claims by awarding Nurofen a Shonky six years ago,” Mr Godfrey said.

The court found Nurofen was marketing four painkillers separately when, in effect, they were the same as the company’s cheaper products. The Nurofen Specific Pain Range was marketed separately as treating back pain, period pain, migraines, and tension headaches.

The case was brought by the ACCC and in December 2015 the manufacturer was found guilty of contravening Australian Consumer Law.

In publishing his reasons for the size of the penalty, Justice Edelman said the manufacturer had not broken Australian Consumer Law before, and had co-operated with the ACCC.

Reckitt Benckiser continues to sell the Nurofen Specific Pain Range with the packaging stating  “Fast Targeted Relief from Pain” for particular conditions, but the packaging now states that the products are also suitable for general pain relief.

The Federal Government commenced a review of Australian consumer law in March and called for public comment.

Mr Godfrey said Choice wanted bigger fines to “match the size of the company and the dodginess of the behaviour”.

“If a $10 million per breach penalty had been available .. Reckitt Benckiser could have been facing a more appropriate fine of  $60 million,” Mr Godfrey said.