02 May 13 | Are extended warranties worth it? You might want to read the terms and conditions before you decide.
03 Apr 13 | Three stores, three returns, one fateful Sunday.
18 Mar 13 | New reforms coming into effect today may not necessarily mean the death of unfair credit card surcharges, writes Elizabeth McNess.
20 Dec 12 | Travelling is no fun if you arrive home with a huge global roaming bill from using your mobile phone overseas.
28 Nov 12 | Decision making doesn't have to be difficult. All it takes is an ultimatum.
19 Nov 12 | There are lopsided dealings when it comes to retirement village contracts in Australia.
14 Sep 12 | Since when have cinema owners been given free rein to assault moviegoers with 20 minutes of soul-crushing commercials before the main feature starts?
23 May 12 | Despite the long drive, parking difficulties and general mayhem, George Perry found the trip to Costco was worth it for the savings.
16 May 12 | Financial literacy is not great in Australia. Worryingly, the latest research by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission shows that there are also many obstacles that make it even harder for people to make good financial decisions.
08 May 12 | Buying a special "deal" from one of the many discount sites that have popped up in the last couple of years is like rolling a dice, says Brendan Mays. You just can't be sure whether you're going to get a six or a one.
03 May 12 | It's time Australians took a reality check when it comes to our relationship with the Big 4 banks, says CHOICE Head of Campaigns, Matt Levey.
10 Apr 12 | There are many online schemes promising consumers good deals on everything from dinners out to hot air balloon rides but they often have restrictions. Matthew Steen decided to check out a new site offering discounts at top restaurants "no coupons necessary" and was pretty happy with the experience.
27 Mar 12 | You need to factor in more than just the item cost when buying something online from overseas as Matthew Steen discovered.
14 Mar 12 | After five months of trying to get an issue with Citibank resolved the old way - by phone and letter - Matthew Steen jumped on Twitter to get his voice heard.
06 Mar 12 | Head of Campaigns for CHOICE, Matt Levey, says it's time to send the big banks a message so they stop taking consumers for granted.
18 Jan 12 | They're designed to provide a cheaper shopping alternative through bulk buying and membership but is the experience worth it?
13 Jan 12 | It’s a great time of year to get out and enjoy live entertainment, if you can afford the ticket prices.
19 Dec 11 | Credit cards can be a useful tool - and when you pick the right one they can even be a cost effective way to access a loan or additional features. However, if you have the wrong credit card for your needs, it could end up costing you big time.
08 Dec 11 | Giving is a part of the Christmas tradition for many of us, and this includes making charitable donations where we can. However, how charities handle our donations can sometimes be the cause of confusion and controversy.
06 Dec 11 | Penalty fees are down, and some gone, but it’s not beyond the banks to indulge in other tricks and distractions to gouge customers, which is why CHOICE is maintaining the scrutiny with our Better Banking Campaign.
01 Dec 11 | It’s two years since unit pricing was made mandatory in large supermarkets and our new survey shows the numbers using it are high. Unfortunately it also reveals there are some problems with the current system which need to be addressed.
25 Nov 11 | Considering that oral disease the most frequently diagnosed problems for pets, we think it’s worth considering an insurer that will cover these costs. Of course, it also helps if you take a preventative approach to your pet’s dental health - an area that can easily go neglected.
21 Nov 11 | Our national economic backbone, mining, has found itself at odds with another area of financial importance – The Great Barrier Reef.
03 Nov 11 | On a recent visit to a major department store, George Perry was surprised by the emptiness of the store. There was plenty of stuff to buy but no-one there to buy it. And, more to the point, no-one to help him make the purchase he was there for.
19 Oct 11 | How one woman set out to reduce her footprint and ended up with two motor scooters and a car.
15 Oct 11 | Home and contents insurance is a mandatory purchase for many home owners, and lately there has been a lot of interest in flood cover. However, a recent letter from a CHOICE member George* has highlighted another area of potential confusion – theft.
10 Oct 11 | I recently saw that Catch of the Day launched a sister operation called Grocery Run. I’m not new to buying online, however aside from the odd overseas grocery item that I couldn’t get in Australia, I’ve never ordered groceries online locally in Australia.
28 Sep 11 | Growing up on a farm gives you a pretty good idea of the ups and downs of pet ownership. From our cigarette-stealing sheep to miniature horses and donkeys running alongside the dogs in the backyard, I’ve had pets in all different shapes and sizes.
27 Sep 11 | Poor customer service sucks. Dealing with rude, incompetent and/or unhelpful staff who refuse to abide by the "customer is always right" mantra can leave you feeling angry, dejected and utterly undervalued. But when it happens, you at least have some means of recourse.
23 Sep 11 | Earlier this week, the Assistant Treasurer Bill Shorten announced some important reforms to the way we build our superannuation. CHOICE has made several submissions to Cooper Review and many of our recommendations were considered in the reforms, which will begin to take effect in July 2013.
09 Sep 11 | Recent household spending statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) indicate that we have more money and better living standards since the last survey in 2003-04. While prices of goods and services have risen by 19%, the mean household income has increased by 50%. In short, costs are on the rise, but our pay is rising faster.
05 Sep 11 | The recent experience of a friend is a timely reminder to give your phone bill a once-over before you pay it.
02 Sep 11 | Comparison websites have been given a warning to act in a fair and transparent manner after the ACCC launched legal action last Friday against EnergyWatch.com.au. The ACCC is alleging misleading or deceptive conduct and making false representations in its advertising. This marks a line in the sand which comparison sites of all types will surely be considering.
30 Aug 11 | There are now many ways to pay for goods and services without cash – EFTPOS, PayPass, payWave, BPAY, PayPal, Paymate, credit card, debit card, POLi, online transfer and mobile payments.
26 Aug 11 | You might not be able to pull money out of a hat, but with these money saving tips, you could magically boost the contents of your piggy bank.
19 Aug 11 | There’s no doubt that internet on the go is becoming commonplace. Nearly 12 million Australians now have an internet-capable mobile phone, and over half of those are smartphones, according to Nielsen’s Australian Online Consumer Report.
12 Aug 11 | If you’re wondering what to do with your super and investments in the current financial market, you’re not alone. Stockmarkets in Australia have been bouncing up and down as debt fears in the US and Europe fuel global speculation, and investors and fund managers worldwide have been riding a rollercoaster of uncertainty.
09 Aug 11 | We recently purchased a product for a CHOICE review but never received it. We had paid for the item via PayPal, so we pursued PayPal’s guarantee of coverage through their internal resolution centre.
05 Aug 11 | Census night allows the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) to gather vital data for planning and infrastructure, but plenty of people don’t mind having a joke when filling out their question sheets.
04 Aug 11 | This week CHOICE launched the first ever group mortgage switch, aiming to give every consumer who takes part the negotiating power of more than a thousand people. We’re calling it the CHOICE Big Bank Switch. With this campaign, CHOICE is putting itself at the forefront of a next-generation consumer campaign; audacious in what it can achieve now and a template for the future.
02 Aug 11 | CHOICE has partnered with One Big Switch to help 1,000 Aussies get better home loan deals with our eyes wide open – and focused squarely on the benefits for consumers.
31 Jul 11 | Try this. You gather a group of people together who want the same thing and negotiate a better price than even the best solo haggler could achieve. You might even get the kind of discounts normally reserved for big spenders like millionaires. It’s called group buying and has been around for a long time in different incarnations.
29 Jul 11 | Frustration at our telecommunications providers has been allowed to grow to Hulk-like proportions due to years of customer service incompetence and confusing pricing plans that are impossible to calculate. With the number of consumers frequently facing bill shock, it’s no wonder people are angry.
22 Jul 11 | Whenever you pay for something using your credit card, it costs businesses money. Typically, it costs more for stores to accept credit cards than other payment methods like debit or EFTPOS. In 2003, the RBA decided to allow those costs to be passed on to consumers in the form of a surcharge.
05 Jul 11 | Just like changing the oil on your car, your finances also often need maintenance to run smoothly. The start of a new financial year is a good time to begin. Here are 10 fast and effective ways to ensure your accounts are in order.
27 Jun 11 | When one CHOICE journalist received less than savoury service at a formerly favourite restaurant, she complained to the owner. But do others let their displeasure be known, or do they take out their frustration online (and in the CHOICE Your Say column)?
03 Jun 11 | Buying your first home can be a daunting prospect. The thought of entering into a new realm of finance, solicitors, reports and negotiations is a little overwhelming, to say the least. In order to assist potential buyers with this process I've complied a checklist of 15 things you’ll need to consider before entering the market and some you will want to know once you've decided to take the plunge.
23 May 11 | Real estate agents get a really bad wrap. As a journalist, who in the past has been on the receiving end of some rather offensive professional generalisations, I have always been conscious of avoiding the tarring of an entire profession with the one brush. That is, I was sympathetic, until my partner and I decided the time was right to enter the property market and a virtual comedy of misrepresentation ensued.
17 May 11 | With interest rates and the cost of living set to rise over the coming year, it may be time to re-examine your budget and identify a few areas where you can save money. For many people, a mortgage represents a large part of the budget, so it makes sense that this should be one of the first places to look.
06 May 11 | This week’s media has been full of news about the four big banks’ latest record-making profits - $12 billion in profit over the past six months. One article that got my attention however was Business Spectator’s "Apple can bank its winnings" by Charis Palmer. Given Apple’s significant cash pools, she pondered the possibility of Apple entering the banking industry.
18 Apr 11 | Have you ever had a bad haircut? What about a really bad haircut? One so bad that when you got home and looked in the mirror you had to fight back the tears? Or, one that required you to wear a hat day and night for the next month?
14 Apr 11 | 1985 was a very different place to 2011. Nelson Mandela was in jail, Ronald Reagan was US president and a man in a chicken suit trespassed into the Australian Parliament and sat on the government’s front bench. But electricity prices…well, they were pretty much the same. Over the last couple of years, Australia-wide electricity prices climbed back to the same levels, inflation adjusted, as the mid-80s.
11 Apr 11 | I was awoken on Friday with an early morning phone call from a friend. She told me she’d received a strange email from me saying that I was in Spain and that I had been robbed - and asking if she could help by sending me some money.
06 Apr 11 | I've owned a laptop for about five years now. I bought it at the top of the range, upgraded it and use it constantly for education, business trips and at home almost every day. It really has served its purpose and I cannot complain about it at all. It's gone through Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7.
31 Mar 11 | Planning the CHOICE Awards is a little like planning a wedding. No bride, sure, but a similar amount of organisation and hard work: book a venue, tee up an MC, invite guests, select a menu, prepare speeches, make seating plans – and then there’s the little thing about choosing awards and winners.
21 Mar 11 | Fees are frustrating. Those little acknowledged, overly annoying additions to everyday purchases that, over time, add up. What’s even more irritating is the fact that they've become particularly prevalent in Australian society (yes, banks, I am looking directly at you – and while I’m in a staring mood, you too "budget" airlines).
03 Mar 11 | Today we’re in Canberra handing a new CHOICE report on banking to the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, and to members of the Senate Committee that’s carrying out an inquiry into banking. The report, packed full of consumer views on banking gathered by CHOICE over recent months, won’t bring a smile to the faces of the fattest cats in the banking industry.
28 Feb 11 | The federal government has announced a plan to implement a carbon price in Australia from 1 July 2012. This is a welcome step because a carbon price is the least-costly way of tackling climate change, and studies show the sooner we act, the lower the cost, so this is potentially good for consumers in the long term.
23 Feb 11 | This current situation with the parent company of the Borders and Angus and Robertson bookstore chains going into voluntary administration highlights one of the risks involved in buying gift vouchers; you’re giving money that could potentially never give a return.
22 Feb 11 | Today the government released emails containing advice on banking reform given to the Treasurer Wayne Swan last October. The advice from officials repeats banking industry concerns about proposals to scrap exit fees and introduce portable bank account numbers - two key reforms strongly supported by CHOICE.
01 Dec 10 | It’s not every day that Gerry Harvey of Harvey Norman fame gets on the blower to challenge my position on globalization and internet buying, but that’s what he did the other day. Gerry has set himself up as the lightning rod of discontent for local traders who are feeling the impact of a massive surge in offshore online sales. The issue has become pub talk with dollar parity, bargains and Christmas providing a perfect triage of temptation.
26 Nov 10 | It’s the hot button issue about tax, technology and competition that has provoked a fiery debate about online shopping versus bricks and mortar retailers. At present, Australians can buy goods online from overseas and not pay GST for products under $1000.
18 Nov 10 | It takes a lot more than a few days to bring about lasting change; in fact a lifetime may not be enough when it comes to taking on the big end of town. But for the very few days the CHOICE Better Banking Campaign has been up and running we are beginning to see some green shoots of change. The global consumer movement won an unexpected victory at the G20, and the Government and Opposition in Australia have been falling over themselves to say the right things.
04 Nov 10 | During the worldwide GFC, the public stood by the banks in their time of need and financial markets are now fortunately more stable. The collapse of the financial system would have benefited no one and that’s why the public gave the green light to any action deemed necessary to stabilise a shaky sector. While Australia didn’t suffer like Europe and America, takeovers and mergers were allowed that have left a legacy of less competition and a worse deal for consumers. That’s why I've been keen for CHOICE to run a campaign to redress the balance. Today we launched that campaign against a backdrop of rising bank profits, interest rates and public anger.
26 Oct 10 | After a 23-hour flight from the US, I stepped straight off a plane and into CHOICE’s Shonky Awards ceremony today - and instantly my jetlag evaporated. Nothing could have revived me more than being reminded of our vision in action – to make Australians the most active and savvy consumers in the world. And nothing does this as effectively as the Shonkys, the least coveted awards in the country.
07 Sep 10 | So, two and a half weeks after the federal election, we have a result. And now that the politicians have stopped trying to woo each other, perhaps they’ll start trying to woo us again. During this peculiar political hiatus, when Ministers and MPs have been horse trading behind closed doors, I have spent a lot of time out of the office listening to consumers in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria.
08 Apr 10 | Over the last few weeks I have been openly discussing the need to create a new consumer culture in Australia. I have received a very positive response from people right across the country. Many feel and have felt for years, a sense of frustration and isolation in their belief that consumers should be treated better. The overwhelming response shows that we are not alone, but the challenge is what we do about it.
16 Mar 10 | I have made no secret of my views on the state of the supermarket sector in Australia over the past year. And talking to consumers, farmers, independent grocers and others about the problem has only strengthened our resolve here at CHOICE to do something about it.
03 Feb 10 | The Australian Open has re-fueled my love of tennis (as well as reminding me that Britain is good at coming second!). It also made me think how the quality of tennis today is infinitely better than it was many years ago. Nostalgia and sentiment take you back to the joys of wooden rackets, Dunlop Plimsolls and McEnroe and Borg, but none of them could cope with the Federer SERVICE!
14 Jan 10 | I recently came across an article on the website Money Management, which made me reflect on the ongoing debate about conflict of interest in the financial advice world.
04 Jan 10 | My comprehensive car insurance is up for renewal this month, so I did the usual thing of shopping around for quotes. AAMI came up with a price of $127 less than my current insurer, NRMA. I called NRMA and said I'd received a much cheaper quote, and asked if there was anything they could do to stop me leaving. In a couple of minutes NRMA was able to knock almost exactly the same amount - $126 - off their previous quote.
19 Nov 09 | On Wednesday evening the report by the Senate Economics Committee into Grocery CHOICE was published. The Inquiry recommendations are important to CHOICE in vindicating our position and re-affirming the need for change in the grocery sector.
17 Nov 09 | The challenge was as blunt, immediate as it was unambiguous. Can you go for a week without darkening the doors of Coles or Woolworths? After all CHOICE will be asking others to consider switching more often to independent grocers, fruitologists, butchers and bakers and even fishmongers for their grocery needs.
03 Nov 09 | Last week I got a letter from my lender, instead of the expected notice about an interest rate increase, the message was rather more disturbing: my lender is withdrawing from the market. While they will continue to service me and their other customers they won’t provide any new loans.
02 Nov 09 | The old adage that convenience comes at a cost rang true when I paid for my car insurance today. What I usually do when I get my policy renewal notice is get a few quotes from other insurers and then come to the conclusion that once again my existing insurer is still the cheapest. I then simply renew my policy no questions asked.
28 Oct 09 | The excitement was palpable as the stage was being set for this year’s CHOICE Shonky Awards ceremony. The question on everyone’s lips: who will be the ignominious winners of the shiny Shonkys this year?
28 Oct 09 | Tough times hit people all the time. It’s why this year we didn’t put up our prices because we know people have been feeling the pinch; it’s also why CHOICE investigates solutions to the most challenging aspects of consumer life, so that we can take the hassle out of your everyday. But it’s the unexpected that can really knock you sideways and which force you to reflect on what you’re doing and whether you can do things better.
15 Oct 09 | Whether it’s planning approvals or palm oil, fair trade or fair bank fees, everywhere you turn consumers and citizens are taking action to achieve change. People organise community action groups and sign email petitions, call talkback radio and write letters to companies demanding change. Action like this is the lifeblood of democracy, and one of the most effective ways to counter the interests of those that seek to exploit consumers.
12 Oct 09 | Parking fines are one of the main bugbears of any motorist, especially when they’ve been wrongly issued. However, I'm interested in why consumers aren't more proactive in challenging unfair fines when the success rate is actually quite high. As we were conducting our research for our article on parking fines, we gathered a vast amount of information using the Freedom of Information request to access data from various government agencies.
09 Oct 09 | Once upon a time having a Gold or Silver credit card in your wallet was a sign of affluence and success for some people — a little plastic status symbol. And in the music world it seems that tradition continues — former Oasis guitarist Noel Gallagher can be seen on YouTube boasting, tongue in cheek, about what his credit-limitless black American Express card could buy him.
02 Oct 09 | A few weeks ago I caught a taxi to the airport for a flight to Canberra. I was on my way to visit the National Information Centre On Retirement Investments (NICRI - a really useful organisation that provides free financial information to consumers), and they'd kindly given me a cabcharge to cover my fare. But unfortunately the docket was past its use-by date, so the driver’s payment machine spat it back.
24 Sep 09 | Around the same time that I was researching ways to recession-proof your finances, some prominent newspaper adverts caught my eye. They were for investment seminars that promised to reveal how to make money regardless of whether share markets were going up, down or sideways. Better still, the system was supposed to be safe. And in the midst of a global economic downturn, with stock markets smashed by up to 50%, who wouldn’t be interested in that?
21 Sep 09 | I’d like to personally welcome you to the new site. All the improvements have been based on your feedback and we will continue to make changes that work for you. Please let me know what you think of the site — the good, the bad and the ugly.