The Auckland District Court has sentenced the makers of Nurofen, Reckitt Benckiser New Zealand (RBNZ), to pay more than $1 million in fines for claiming that its products targeted specific types of pain, even though the active ingredients were the same in each product.
Some painkillers were comparable to other Nurofen pain products but cost more. According to prosecutors, the claims misled shoppers into believing they needed to buy individual products for each type of pain rather than one.
Last year, RBNZ pleaded guilty to ten charges laid by the Commerce Commission and the products have since been removed from shelves. However, the company insists that its specific-pain range was launched just to provide easy navigation of pain-relief within the grocery environment where pharmacy support is not available.
“It was never Reckitt Benckiser’s intention to mislead consumers, that’s beyond doubt,” said the company’s lawyer, Michael Heron QC. “It considers itself to be a responsible company and it sincerely regrets and apologises for instances where consumers have been misled.”
In a company statement, RBNZ also pointed out that the court decision applies to New Zealand only and does not apply to other products in the Nurofen range. “We have cooperated fully with the New Zealand Commerce Commission (NZCC) in its investigation, and we have taken corrective action to amend the packaging, remove the web pages, made admissions to the charges and acknowledge with deep regret any confusion caused.”
In April 2016, the Australian arm of the company was fined AU$1.7 million (NZ$1.86 million) for the same reason.