Australian Federal Court finds Reckitt Benckiser made misleading claims about content of its painkillers

Orders Nurofen Specific Pain product range to be removed from retail shelves

Reckitt Benckiser, the manufacturer of Nurofen painkillers, has been ordered by The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to remove Nurofen Specific Pain products from pharmacy shelves in Australia.

The Australian Federal Court found that Reckitt Benckiser (Australia) engaged in 'misleading conduct in contravention of the Australian Consumer Law' by claiming that its Nurofen Specific Pain products were each formulated to treat a specific type of pain, when the products are identical.

The Nurofen Specific Pain product range consists of Nurofen Back Pain, Nurofen Period Pain, Nurofen Migraine Pain and Nurofen Tension Headache.

The court found that Reckitt Benckiser made 'misleading representations on the packaging of each Nurofen Specific Pain product', and on its website at www.nurofen.com.au, by claiming that each product was formulated to treat a specific type of pain.In fact, each product contains the same active ingredient, ibuprofen lysine 342mg, and is no more effective at treating the type of pain described on its packaging than any of the other Nurofen Specific Pain products.

Nurofen Specific Pain Products are also 'significantly more expensive than other comparable analgesic products which also act as general pain relievers', the ACCC said.

Reckitt Benckiser made misleading representations on the packaging of each Nurofen Specific Pain product

Price sampling conducted before the proceedings began indicated that the products were being sold at retail prices almost double that of Nurofen’s standard ibuprofen products and the general pain relief products of its competitors, said ACCC Chairman Rod Sims.

Reckitt Benckiser admitted that it had engaged in the contravening conduct and agreed to remove the products from retail shelves within three months.

'The ACCC took these proceedings because it was concerned that consumers may have purchased these products in the belief that they specifically treated a certain type of pain, based on the representations on the packaging, when this was not the case,' said Sims.

'Truth in advertising and consumer issues in the health and medical sectors are priority areas for the ACCC, to ensure that consumers are given accurate information when making their purchasing decisions.'

Sims added: 'Any representations which are difficult for a consumer to test will face greater scrutiny from the ACCC.'

As well as ordering the firm to remove the products from retail shelves, the court ordered Reckitt Benckiser to publish website and newspaper corrective notices, implement a consumer protection compliance programme, and pay the ACCC’s costs.

The ACCC has agreed an interim packaging arrangement with Reckitt Benckiser for use following the removal of these products. This will clearly disclose to consumers that the products are equally effective for other forms of pain.

A hearing on a possible fine for the company will be held on a date to be fixed by the Court.

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