It comes after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) earlier this year appealed for the $1.7 million fine imposed on pharmaceutical company Reckitt Benckiser to be increased.
The consumer watchdog had taken the painkiller maker to court in 2015 on the basis that its special products for back pain, period pain, migraines and tension headaches were chemically identical, despite packaging touting remedy for specific types of pain.
The Federal Court on Friday ordered the company to pay a $6 million fine, as well as the ACCC’s legal costs.
“This is the highest corporate penalty awarded for misleading conduct under the Australian Consumer Law,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said in a statement. “The ACCC welcomes this decision, having originally submitted that a penalty of $6 million or higher was appropriate given the longstanding and widespread nature of the conduct, and the substantial sales and profit that was made.”
In their joint decision, Justices Jagot, Yates and Bromwich stated: “The objective of any penalty in this case must be to ensure that Reckitt Benckiser and other ‘would-be wrongdoers’ think twice and decide not to act against the strong public interest”.
“The ACCC will continue to advocate for higher penalties for breaches of Australia’s consumer laws to ensure that they act as an effective deterrent and are not simply viewed as a cost of doing business,” Sims said.