Consumer group CHOICE has unveiled the 2017 ‘winners’ of its annual list of shonky and dubious businesses and products, with many well-known brands recognised for poor customer offerings.
In time-honoured Australian slang, the Shonky Awards recognise business and products that are “unreliable, unsound, dishonest, poor or of dubious quality” – serving as a warning to businesses of all size to be accurate in the claims they make about their products and services.
“Whether it’s for targeting the unborn with a poor value savings account, financially exploiting those in pain or chipping away at kids’ teeth with dodgy vitamin products, this year’s winners deserve their awards,” CHOICE chief executive Alan Kirkland said.
“Unfortunately, each year the awards go from strength to strength as companies continue to serve up poor value, hidden charges and questionable claims. Sadly, it looks like we’ll be back again in 2018.”
However, Mr Kirkland said he hoped the companies put on notice for dodgy practices and irritating consumers take heed of the warning.
“For those eight companies that sank to the bottom in this year’s awards, they now have an opportunity to follow the lead of previous recipients such as Ikea and Qantas and clean up their act,” he said.
Event ticket retailer Viagogo picked up the award for dodgy practices that ticked off consumers, for a number of misleading practices that recently caught the attention of the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC), including the non-disclosure of additional fees and surcharges when quoting prices.
Meanwhile Coles and Nature’s Way (Pharmacare) have been complained about to the ACCC in relation to their respective Complete Cuisine cat food and Kidsmart Vita Gummies.
“Pet foods labelled ‘complete’ are designed to provide a balanced diet for your dog or cat and meet the recommended nutritive requirements outlined by the Association of American Feed Control Officials,” said CHOICE’s head of media, Tom Godfrey.
“Although Coles reveals the product is in fact ‘not nutritionally complete’ in the fine print on the back of the tin, we allege consumers who rely on the large ‘complete’ claim on the front of pack to feed their pet are likely to be misled. We have referred the product to the regulator and want to see it pulled from the shelves.”
Mr Godfrey added that the lack of information about the amount of sugar in each serving and no warnings about the risks associated with overconsumption warranted further investigation of the Nature’s Way supplements.
“Nature’s Way uses colourful cartoon characters to shout the health benefits of sugar-filled Vita Gummies to children,” he said.
“It’s a bit rich that this product claims on the front of pack to be good for teeth, when it is little more than a sugary treat which could cause tooth decay.”
Other Shonky Award winners in 2017 were:
• Westpac for its Bump Savings Account, offering a “poor” 2.3 per cent interest rate to unborn babies and requiring the recipients to wait 16 years before being able to collect the advertised $200 bonus.
• The Pain Erazor pen, which CHOICE claimed is “unlikely to erase anything except your hard-earned cash”.
• Cuddly Sensitive Hypoallergenic fabric softener, which performed worse than water in CHOICE’s in-house testing.
• Car markers Honda, Toyota, Lexus, BMW and Mazda for their handling of the Takata airbag recall scandal, including not disclosing like-for-like replacements and the risks of ‘alpha’ inflators.