A chemist holds a box of Nurofen Plus at a pharmacy in London August 27, 2011.
A chemist holds a box of Nurofen Plus at a pharmacy in London August 27, 2011. Reuters/Luke MacGregor

Reckitt Benckiser, the maker of Nurofen fined over misleading customers with its “Specific Pain” range, is in troubled again after the Federal Court increased the penalty from $1.7 million to $6 million on Friday.

The decision came following the appeal of Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), which had argued that the penalty of $1.7 million was not an "adequate deterrent" for a company as big as Reckitt Benckiser.

The Federal Court judgment said that the objective of increasing the penalty was to "ensure Reckitt Benckiser and other 'would-be wrongdoers' think twice and decide not to act against the strong public interest."

Reckitt Benckiser was penalised in April for misleading its customers by claiming that products under its Nurofen Specific Pain range were formulated to specifically treat a particular type of pain. However, all the products under the range provided identical doses of an active ingredient, which was equal to 200mg of ibuprofen. Nurofen Specific Pain range targeted migraine pain, tension headache, period pain and back pain.

Furthermore, Nurofen Specific Pain range products were similar to other Nurofen ibuprofen tablets but they were priced almost double. "The products were sold at double the price of standard Nurofen. Contrary to the representations, ibuprofen does not 'target' any particular kind of pain," Justices Jagot, Yates and Bromwich, who took the decision jointly, said in a statement.

“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,” ACCC Chairman Rodd Simms said.

Reckitt Benckiser is considering its position with its legal advisers. The company is unhappy with the decision that the Federal court has taken.

“The original penalty of the Federal Court in April was appropriate in all the circumstances,” the company said in a statement. “Nurofen did not intend to mislead consumers; however we recognise that we could have done more to assist our consumers in navigating the Nurofen Pain Specific Range.”