British pharmaceutical Reckitt Benckiser has been fined a record $4.4 million by an Australian court for misleading customers over the abilities of its range of Nurofen painkiller products.
Australia’s consumer watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, had already won its case against the company in December. 2015. But it felt the 1.7-million-dollar fine imposed by the court in April was inadequate.
The ACCC, however, appealed to Australia’s Federal Court.
It said the Nurofen range of products all contained the same active ingredient, ibuprofen lysine 342mg, in spite of claims on the packaging that each product targeted a different type of pain.
In Friday’s decision handed down in Sydney, judges said the claims on Nurofen products were “inherently misleading’’ and the ingredients did not target any particular pain type.
“The objective of any penalty in this case must be to ensure that Reckitt Benckiser and other ‘would-be wrongdoers’ think twice.
“Also, the wrongdoers should decide not to act against the strong public interest,’’ the judges said in their decision to increase the fine.
The judges noted that the pharmaceutical giant would also have to pay the ACCC’s legal costs.
ACCC chairman Rod Sims said it was the highest corporate penalty imposed so far for misleading conduct under Australian consumer law and bodes well for other cases the organisation was pursuing.
“The boards of companies and the chief executives of companies need to make sure their marketing people aren’t pushing the limits to misleading consumers,’’ Sims said.
Reckitt Benckiser said in a statement to the media organisations that it was “disappointed’’ at the court’s decision.