It comes after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) earlier this year appealed for the $1.7 million fine imposed on pharmaceutical giant Reckitt Benckiser to be increased.
The consumer watchdog had taken the company to court in 2015 for its packaging highlighting back pain, period pain, migraines and tension headaches painkillers – despite the tablets being chemically identical.
As well, while Nurofen Specific Pain products were similar to other standard Nurofen ibuprofen tablets they cost almost double.
Today the Federal Court found the initial $1.7 million penalty was inadequate given the substantial consumer loss suffered.
“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 three-judge panel ruled.
The tablet-maker must now pay a $6 million fine, as well as the ACCC’s legal costs.
ACCC Chairman Rodd Simms said it’s the highest corporate penalty awarded for misleading conduct under Australian consumer law.
“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,” Simms said.
Reckitt Benckiser is disappointed by the court’s decision.
“The original penalty of the Federal Court in April was appropriate in all the circumstances,” it said in a statement.
“Nurofen did not intend to mislead consumers, however we recognise that we could have done more to assist our consumers in navigating the Nurofen Pain Specific Range.”
The company is considering its position with legal advisors, the statement said.
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