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14-year-old Ribena vigilantes cost GlaxoSmithKline NZ$220K in false advertising case

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April 13, 2007

April 14, 2007 When 14-year-old New Zealand schoolgirls Jenny Suo and Anna Devathasan handed in their surprising Science Fair project results in 2004, they hardly expected to strike a financial blow for the consumer, but that's exactly what happened when global pharmaceutical juggernaut GlaxoSmithKline admitted to 15 charges of breaching the Fair Trading Act at the Auckland District Court earlier this month. The girls' project tested the vitamin C content of 8 different juices against the claimed amount on the packaging and were surprised to find that despite GSK's assertion that Ribena contains 7 milligrams of Vitamin C per 100ml, they were able to find "no detectable level" of the vitamin. Go to it kids! Be inspired by Jenny and Anna and keep 'em honest.

GSK was fined NZ$227 500 (US$164,416) and ordered to run newspaper apologies such as this one, in which they claim the deficit was due to vitamin breakdown during storage.

The penalty is unlikely to be of great concern to the major multinational, but the girls, now aged 17, are proud of their persistance in contacting the Commerce Commission after initially being brushed off by the company. “I think it’s good that they at least admitted it and didn’t try and say we were still wrong,” said Suo.

“It’s quite insane when you think about,” Devasathan mused. “Most people wait their whole lives to find a chance like this, and we just stumbled on it. It cracks me up that we were 14 at the time.”

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About the Author
Mike Hanlon Mike grew up thinking he would become a mathematician, accidentally started motorcycle racing, got a job writing road tests for a motorcycle magazine while at university, and became a writer. As a travelling photojournalist during his early career, his work was published in a dozen languages across 20+ countries. He went on to edit or manage over 50 print publications, with target audiences ranging from pensioners to plumbers, many different sports, many car and motorcycle magazines, with many more in the fields of communication - narrow subject magazines on topics such as advertising, marketing, visual communications, design, presentation and direct marketing. Then came the internet and Mike managed internet projects for Australia's largest multimedia company, Telstra.com.au (Australia's largest Telco), Seek.com.au (Australia's largest employment site), top100.com.au, hitwise.com, and a dozen other internet start-ups before founding Gizmag in 2002. Now he writes and thinks. All articles by Mike Hanlon
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