Australia court fines Reckitt Benckiser $1.3 mln, regulator says penalty inadequate

SYDNEY, April 29 (Reuters) - An Australian court on Friday ordered British consumer goods giant Reckitt Benckiser to pay a penalty of A$1.7 million ($1.30 million) for misleading consumers on painkiller marketing, prompting the regulator that flagged the case to say it would step up a campaign for heftier fines in future.

The court ruled Reckitt Benckiser “contravened the Australian Consumer Law”, saying its Nurofen Back Pain, Period Pain, Migraine Pain and Tension Headache products were identical. The firm had engaged in “misleading conduct” by labelling them for different ailments, the court said.

Reckitt Benckiser representatives in Australia didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment by telephone and email.

Last December, the court had ordered the firm, worth $69 billion by market value, to pull several of its Nurofen pain relief products from the market.

The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC), which had brought the proceedings to the court, said on Friday it was advocating for an increase to penalties for breach of consumer laws.

“The ACCC had submitted that a penalty of at least A$6 million was appropriate in order to send a strong deterrence message,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said in a statement.

“We will carefully consider the judgment,” he said.

$1 = 1.3089 Australian dollars Reporting by Swati Pandey; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell