The shonkiest, meanest and silliest rip-offs and scams have been named and shamed today at the 2010 Annual Shonky Awards, hosted by the people’s watchdog , consumer group CHOICE.
A total of eight companies and products were chosen for this year's awards: supermarket giant Coles; Commonwealth Bank; pain relief brand Nurofen; whitegoods brand LG; wristband "sporting aid" Power Balance; rope producer, Medalist; website babynamemeans.com and a selection of olive oil brands.
While 2010 brings revised processes and new consumer and credit laws the annual CHOICE Shonky Awards continue to act as a reminder that consumers need to be as vigilant as ever.
Christopher Zinn, spokesman for CHOICE comments: “This is the fifth year of the Shonkys and you’d think most companies would be doing their best to ensure they’re delivering good honest products and services.
“Yet year after year we’re continually amazed by marketers’ efforts to take Australians for a ride."
The 2010 Shonky winners:
Product: Under $10 meal promotion
Background information: Coles supermarket gets a shonky for its meal promotion fronted by celebrity chef, Curtis Stone. The deal claims you can feed four people for less than $10 the catch is you have to already happen to have some of the ingredients in your pantry--which aren't included in the price! If you include the uncosted ‘pantry items’ ( including 3/4 of a bottle of wine) in Curtis’ $7.76 Coq au vin it would actually cost more than $30.
Company: Commonwealth Bank
Product: Commonwealth Bank Awards Program
Background information: The Commonwealth Standard Awards card has been awarded a Shonky for its poor and sneaky rewards. Spending $12,000 per annum on will provide only $20 in flights rewards, assuming you spend on Amex (the value drops even further for Visa/MasterCard users). But the way the awards points are converted to Qantas Frequent Flier points is a low-flying jest. One point only equals half of one frequent flier and that salient fact is hidden away in some mighty small print.
Product: Painkillers labeled for specific pain types such as back, period, migraine...
Background information: Nurofen painkillers actually contain identical ingredients from product to product despite marketing painkillers for varying pains. The active ingredient in these painkillers spreads through your whole body attacking whatever pain it comes across, wherever it is. The shonkiest aspect of this type of marketing is that the fast-acting painkillers labeled for specific pain types are more expensive.
Product: The side-by-side GC-L197NFS Refrigerator
Background information: This side-by-side refrigerator consumes far more electricity than its energy star label states which the company claimed was a mistake. However LG’s fridge has landed them in hot water with the ACCC after CHOICE blew the whistle. LG have form for getting their stars mixed up in the past both washing machines and air conditioners have had their energy efficiencies overstated.
Company: Power Balance
Product: Power Balance band
Background information: Despite the promotion blurb promoting benefits for natural energy flow the Power Balance band is simply just a rubber band bracelet with a plastic hologram. Heaving endorsed by sporting pros it retails for a mere $60 alongside claims it somehow makes you stronger, more poised and just better. The band was tested at CHOICE under controlled lab conditions which showed it did little else than empty purchasers’ wallets.
Product: Recreational rope
Background information: Sold for $9.99 the rope’s braided exterior bares an uncanny resemblance to proper climbing rope. Its label even states it conforms to Australian standards and is suitable “outdoor recreational use”. Our tests showed it's hardly stronger than string and is basically stuffed with nothing tougher than tissue paper. It stretches and snaps with minimum force and should certainly NOT to be used for any recreational purposes.
Product: Hidden subscription costs
Background information: The site which gives you the meaning behind babies names is a cynical internet trap. Click the ‘register’ button on the hidden terms and conditions and you are roped into a subscription-based service costing $ 144 for a minimum of one year. The bill arrives courtesy of some Australian debt collectors.
Company: Not to Virgin olive oil brands
Product: Olive oil
Background information: CHOICE tested 28 brands of extra virgin olive oil and found half were nothing of the sort due to poor storage. The mainly Mediterranean manufacturers’ cried foul blaming everyone else in the supply chain. But consumers still aren’t always getting true extra virgin quality at the point of sale, despite paying a premium. Ultimately, CHOICE wants “extra virgin” to be regulated under the Food Standards Code with mandatory requirements that all olive oils labelled “extra virgin" meet basic purity and quality standards for the duration of their expected shelf life, as well as carry a suitable date so that consumers are able to choose the freshest oils.
To access the full CHOICE Shonky report visit www.choice.com.au/shonkys