Nurofen will pull its pain-specific products from retailers’ shelves after the Federal Court ruled the company mislead consumers into thinking its products treated specific kinds of pain when, in fact, the ingredients are identical.
The Nurofen “specific pain” range consists of Nurofen Back Pain, Nurofen Period Pain, Nurofen Migraine Pain and Nurofen Tension Headache.
The court ruled Nurofen made representations that each product was designed to treat a particular type of pain when each contained the same active ingredient.
As a result, Reckitt Benckiser, the company behind Nurofen, has been ordered to publish corrective notices and pay the costs of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which initiated the legal proceedings back in March.
ACCC chairman Rod Sims said in a statement the watchdog took action against Nurofen because it believed consumers were being misled.
“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 said.
“Any representations which are difficult for a consumer to test will face greater scrutiny from the ACCC … Price sampling conducted by the ACCC before the proceedings were commenced indicated that the Nurofen Specific Pain 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.”
In a statement issued to SmartCompany, a spokesperson for Nurofen said the current pain-specific packaged products will be removed from all retail shelves within three months.
In the interim, the packaging will be replaced with labels agreed to by the competition watchdog.
“Nurofen did not set out to mislead consumers,” the spokesperson for Nurofen said.
“Nurofen has co-operated with the ACCC in relation to these proceedings and will fully comply with the court order made today.”
Rohan Harris, principal at Russell Kennedy Lawyers, told SmartCompany the Federal Court decision will make businesses think twice about marketing their products in a similar way.
“If you market your products as having a particular characteristic but in fact they’re not any different from the generic or run-of-the-mill version and you’re wanting to charge a higher price, I think it’s always going to attract the attention of the authorities,” Harris says.
“There’s a particular sensitivity around anything represented to have medicinal properties where people would be inclined to pay extra for something that’s been represented as being over and above what they normally purchase.”
Never miss a story: sign up to SmartCompany’s free daily newsletter.