The producer of NUROFEN, Reckitt Benckiser, has been fined $6 million Australian dollars (approximately €4.24 million), by the Australian Full Federal Court for misleading advertising practices. The fine was imposed following an appeal by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (the Commission).
The Commission was concerned that consumers were being "misled into purchasing Nurofen Specific Pain Products… in the belief that each product was specifically designed for and effective in treating a particular type of pain". The Commission alleged that Reckitt Benckiser had stated on its website and product packaging that NUROFEN products were able to target specific types of pain, such as migraine and back pain. However, according to the Commission, all products were identical and contained the same active ingredient, ibuprofen lysine, in the same quantity, 342mg.
As a result, the Commission instigated proceedings against Reckitt Benckiser which led to the imposition of a fine of $1.7 million Australian dollars from the Australian Federal Court. However, the Commission appealed the level of the fine to the Australian Full Federal Court, which tripled the fine to $6 million Australian dollars. The level of the fine was determined by reference to the amount of 5.9 million packets that had been sold over the relevant five year period, from 2011 to 2015.
This case serves as a reminder to companies to advertise their products accurately and ensure the correct balance between clever, effective marketing and exacting legal standards. This should be a key consideration for marketing content that will be made available in multiple jurisdictions, especially where non-compliance with advertising standards can attract substantial financial penalties.