Nurofen to pay record fine after High Court appeal rejected

$6 million fine issued for misleading Nurofen Specific Pain products.

The High Court has rejected an appeal made by the manufacturer of Nurofen to dismiss a record fine issued for making misleading representations.

The decision follows an appeal made by Reckitt Benckiser, the manufacturer of Nurofen, after it was fined $6 million for misleading consumers with its range of targeted pain relief products.

Reckitt Benckiser applied for an appeal to the High Court following a ruling in December 2016. The pharmaceutical company alleged the fine was too high for the damage its misrepresentations had caused consumers.

The $6 million fine is the largest awarded for misleading representations under Australian Consumer Law. Originally a fine of $1.7 million was handed down by the courts, but the ACCC lodged (and won) an appeal on the grounds it would be of little consequence to a company as large as Reckitt Benckiser.

The targeted pain relief products sold between 2011 and 2015 are estimated to have generated $45 million in revenue for Reckitt Benckiser.

The court ruled Reckitt Benckiser misled consumers by claiming its Nurofen Specific Pain products were formulated to treat a particular type of pain.

This was not the case. Each product across the range contained 342mg of the active ingredient ibuprofen lysine, which was no more effective at targeting pain than its general Nurofen product.

CHOICE first called Reckitt Benckiser out for this conduct more than six years, going as far as awarding the company with a Shonky.

The High Court dismissed Reckitt Benckiser's special leave application and ordered the company to cover the ACCC's costs.