Consumer watchdog CHOICE has released its 2020 Shonky Awards, which shine a light on what it says were the most dubious products and services of the year.
CHOICE’s top selections, and its reason why, were:
- InvoCare Funerals – for failing to be upfront about prices
- Greentech air purifiers – for pathetic purification
- Harvey Norman – for a toxic partnership with Latitude Finance
- Floor cleaners – for being flawed cleaners
- Revitalife – for a sales scheme that needs to be put to bed.
CHOICE is the mouthpiece of the Australian Consumers’ Association, a not-for-profit, independent membership-based consumer advocacy organisation founded in 1959. Its Shonky Awards, now in their 16th year, promote the organisation’s research and advocacy on behalf of Australian consumers.
Last year, CHOICE gave Shonkys to Kogan, Medibank, Ikea, Freedom Foods, AMP superannuation and pet insurance.
“CHOICE’s work is more important than ever in 2020 as Australians negotiate through the COVID-19 health crisis and tough economic times,” says CHOICE CEO Alan Kirkland.
“This year alone we’ve campaigned for banks to treat people in financial hardship fairly, identified dodgy hand sanitisers and called out the insurance industry for playing tricks with their definition of fire.”
Harvey Norman was censured for exploiting an exemption from credit laws to sell credit cards in stores, without checking whether the person could afford to repay the debt.
“The banking royal commission uncovered many behaviours that were hurting people … Harvey Norman has partnered with Latitude Finance to push a credit card with an eye-watering interest rate of 22.74 per cent. On this Harvey Norman Latitude Mastercard GO card, a purchase of $5000 at 22.74 per cent would leave someone making the minimum repayments paying back $17,909 over 29 years.
“With Latitude, Harvey Norman is selling one of the most expensive credit cards on the market and it needs to end now.”
InvoCare, the company behind White Lady Funerals and Simplicity Funerals, was called out for doing “everything it can to avoid being upfront with grieving families about costs”.
Greentech air purifiers finished last in choice.com.au testing in a year in which bushfires and the pandemic put air quality front of mind.
Floor cleaners from Bunning and Coles were derided for performing worse than water and being mere ‘floor perfume’.
Revitalife was called out for using a ‘health survey’ to sell expensive beds.
“Revitalife makes huge claims about the benefits of their beds based on a single clinical trial of six people,” CHOICE said.
Past lowlights from the Shonky Hall of Shame included a 12-pack of ‘green and clean’ air sold for $246.24 (2016); a gin, tonic and lime drink that contained none of those ingredients (2006), and a $189 toaster that did not toast (2018).
Household products (23 per cent), food and drink (22 per cent) and banking (17 per cent) have dominated more than 100 Shonkys awarded in 12 categories.
CHOICE has shone a light on obvious wastes of money, such as insurance against alien abduction, but its biggest wins have included putting a spotlight on exorbitant credit card surcharges; ‘targeted relief’ Nurofen painkillers that contained the same active ingredients as the basic product; and inconsistencies in insurance practices following the devastating 2011 Queensland floods.
If you feel you have been misled or cheated by a product or service, your state or territory has an agency that can help:
- Access Canberra
- NSW Fair Trading
- NT Consumer Affairs
- Office of Fair Trading Queensland
- SA Office of Consumer and Business Services (CBS)
- Tasmania Consumer, Building and Occupational Services (CBOS)
- Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV)
- WA Consumer Protection – Department Of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety
Did you have the ill-fortune to buy or use any of the products named and shamed by CHOICE?
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