An Australian court ordered a British consumer goods company on Friday to pay 1.7 million Australian dollars ($1.3 million) in penalties after ruling that the company misled consumers about the effectiveness of a popular painkiller.
The Federal Court ruled in December that British consumer goods company Reckitt Benckiser deceived Australians by selling Nurofen painkillers that were marketed to relieve specific ailments, such as back pain and period pain, when all of the products contained an identical amount of the same active ingredient, ibuprofen lysine. The court ordered the company to remove the products from Australian stores.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which launched the court action, had asked the court to impose a AU$6 million penalty on the company, arguing consumers had been tricked into unnecessarily paying more for the drugs. The consumer watchdog said the price of the specific pain products was nearly double that of Nurofen's standard ibuprofen painkiller and other general pain relief products sold by competitors.
In issuing the fine on Friday, Justice James Edelman acknowledged the company's actions may have had a negative financial effect on consumers, but said the products had not caused anyone physical harm.
Reckitt Benckiser has since changed the packaging for its specific pain line to indicate the drugs are also effective for general pain relief.
In a statement, Nurofen said the company had not meant to mislead the public.
"However, we recognize that we could have done more to assist our consumers in navigating the Nurofen Specific Pain Range," the company said. "That is, to show that each of the products in the range is equally effective for the other pains indicated on the Nurofen Specific Pain Range packaging."