Every year, consumer group Choice recognises the products and services on sale in Australia that it deems to be the worst with the Shonky Awards. Here are this year’s “winners”.
Operating each year since 2006, the Shonkys are Choice’s high-profile means of naming and shaming companies that offer poor products, poor services and poor value to their customers.
Candidates are nominated by at least one of the following criteria, which are then fact-checked by Choice:
- Fails quality or safety standards
- Performs poorly during product testing
- Includes hidden fees and charges
- Lacks transparency/creates consumer confusion
- Is marketed with false or misleading claims, or breaks its promises
- Consumers are left worse off
- Poor value for money
- Generates demonstrable anger or frustration from users
Choice revealed that the 2018 Shonky Award winners are (in alphabetical order):
Bioglan homeopathic melatonin
Awarded for “trickery that leaves people sleepless”
Choice claimed that the Bioglan product, produced by Pharmacare, claims to “relieve mild temporary insomnia and symptoms of mild nervous tension”, without there being any reliable evidence that it is anything more than a placebo.
Commonwealth Bank Dollarmites
Awarded for “a relentless marketing program targeted at young minds”
CBA was called out for “employing subversive sales tactics under the guide of youth education” by pitching at primary school children to open savings accounts with the bank.
“While most people would agree that letting a corporation buy its way directly into the education system is ludicrous, we still permit virtually unlimited access to young children from some of the worst big business offenders in the country,” Choice said.
“The Commonwealth Bank promised to ‘clean up’ the program late last year, but there’s no half measure for eradicating a Shonky Dollarmites infestation – it must be exterminated from the school environment entirely.”
Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Smash
Awarded for “putting the squeeze on good health”
Tapping into the liquid breakfast market with its Nutrii-Grain cereal brand, Kellogg’s was criticised for marketing that suggests the product was good for healthy young people, despite being high in sugar.
Choice claimed it used messaging such as “protein to help you feel fuller” despite it containing almost three times more sugar (14.7 grams) than protein (5.6 grams).
“We think companies like Kellogg’s need to be transparent about how much of their sugar is added and how much is intrinsic to the ingredients. If we know whether sugar is added, it's much easier to make healthier choices in the shopping aisle,” it said.
KitchenAid 2 Slice toaster
Awarded for “miserably failing its only job”
The toaster received a performance score of 0 per cent – absolutely nothing – after failing to do its only job, toasting bread.
“With no significant browning on any of our attempts, we had to give this toaster a performance score of 0 per cent. This brushed stainless steel toaster may make your kitchen look pretty, but we think KitchenAid should release it in a new colour: ‘Shonky lemon’,” Choice said.
KitchenAid was quoted as defending the quality of its products, and said it came with a two-year warranty, suggesting it may have been a fault with the individual unit rather than the entire product line.
Awarded for “using weak claims to pull on hip pockets”
Rather than one particular brand or maker, this award was handed to the wider industry, for claims that magnets can help relieve chronic pain.
“There’s a clear lack of studies that prove these devices aren’t simply placebos,” Choice claimed.
“For example, in a meta-analysis of nine placebo-controlled and randomised trials, professors at the Complementary Medicine Centre from the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth found that ‘the evidence does not support the use of static magnets for pain relief, and therefore magnets cannot be recommended as an effective treatment’.”
Marriott Vacation Club
Awarded for “trapping holiday-makers into a bad deal for a lifetime”
Choice said that having investigated five timeshare programs, “the financial outcomes we uncovered ranged from terrible to terrifying”, and that the worst of the five was the Marriott Vacation Club International.
It was a combination of the emotional marketing tools, with claims such as “live the vacation lifestyle” and “make the most of every precious vacation moment”, 40-year contract terms and accommodation reportedly costing exponentially more than that sourced through online booking sites, that drew the ire of the consumer group.
Awarded for “putting infant lives at risk”
“Since 2011, we’ve tested 60 portacots and, shockingly, the vast majority have failed to meet minimum safety requirements. You'd be forgiven for wondering how it’s possible they’ve made it to store shelves,” Choice said.
The group said its testing on Big W’s Dymples Portacot – which allegedly failed to meet safety standards – prompted the discount department store giant to issue a product recall. But other manufacturers continue to sell sub-par products, it said.
“Models from many brands that failed our key safety tests are still on the market at the time of publication, so the following brands receive a particularly dubious Shonky for putting infant safety in second place,” it said.
They were listed as:
- Baby Björn
- Baby Solutions (Kmart)
- Elite Baby
- Love N Care
- Phil & Teds
- Vee Bee
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.