CHOICE Awards 2010

We unveil the winners of this inaugural event.
 
Learn more
 
 
 
 
 

01 .And the winners are...

For years, we've named and shamed retailers and manufacturers with our notorious Shonkys. Now it's time to offer bouquets to 2009's top-performing companies and products with our inaugural CHOICE Awards.

 

The award shortlists have been drawn from hundreds of product tests and research projects conducted by CHOICE during 2009. The winner in each category is determined by a panel of CHOICE experts in that specialist field - with the exception of the People's CHOICE Award for Best Retailer, which was opened up to our 180,000 members to be determined by popular vote. To celebrate our 50th anniversary, we're presenting the CHOICE Heritage Award to the company that has delivered consistently good products and services over the past half-century. 

 

The CHOICE Award categories are:

Video: The 2010 CHOICE Awards

Our specialists (and CHOICE readers) reveal who won the awards, and why.

 
 

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02.People's Choice Award - Best Retailer

 
Best Retailer

More than 1000 CHOICE members went online, sent a fax or mailed us to deliver their vote for the most consumer-friendly retailer for 2009.

It's clear from your comments that two things always win you over: value for money and being able to speak with someone who knows what they're talking about. Almost 500 local retailers received votes of confidence; however our shortlisted top 10 retailers combined attracted 60% of the vote.
 

Award criteria

  • Customer service
  • Value for money
  • Product knowledge
  • After-sales service 

Shortlist

  • Aldi
  • Apple
  • Bing Lee
  • Bunnings
  • David Jones
  • Dick Smith
  • The Good Guys
  • Harvey Norman
  • JB Hi-Fi
  • Myer 

Winner: The Good Guys The Good Guys

According to CHOICE members, The Good Guys are indeed really good guys. Many voters said that staff are knowledgeable about the products they sell, as well as willing to match or beat competitors' price offers. "They are product knowledgeable, friendly, polite, honest and very professional," enthused one CHOICE member. Another said: " [They] have plenty of staff, make good on their promises and provide very good prices on products. I continue to purchase goods and recommend them to friends." 

 

 

Runners up: Harvey Norman and JB Hi-Fi

Although The Good Guys won by a significant margin, Harvey Norman finished strongly in second place, followed closely by JB Hi-Fi.

Stores with a big home electronics focus attracted favourable comments, particularly about staff being able to deal with customer requests without appearing patronising or putting them under undue pressure. David Jones and Aldi finished just outside the top three, suggesting there is a place in the market for both premium service and extremely price-competitive products (even though Aldi may not have as great a variety of products as Coles and Woolworths).

Other deserving retailers were Myer and Bunnings. Dick Smith and Apple are popular tech shop stops, while Bing Lee rounds out the top 10 retailers as voted by you.

Best baby brand

The philosophy behind our testing of baby products is safety and reliability, built on 50 years of research and feedback by consumers and relevant industry safety bodies. The shortlisted companies for Best Baby Brand provide a wide range of baby and toddler products, from strollers and walkers to carriers and cots for the home or travelling family.

When we judged this category, we ruled out any brand that was subject to a recall in 2009. And because we don't test every product a brand makes, we also checked that the regulators haven't spotted any problems. 

 

Award criteria

  • Safety
  • Reliability
  • Ease of use
  • Readily available
  • Variety 

Shortlist

  • Bèbè Care
  • Childcare
  • Love N Care  

Winner: Love N Care

Love N Care's products were recommended five times in 2008/09 (one high chair, two strollers and two cots). In our baby sling and change table tests, their models were rated as "worth considering". No Love N Care Advia SportLove N Care products were not recommended. Most major baby brands are represented several times in our 2008/09 tests, but all except Love N Care failed at least once.

Love N Care makes a wide range of baby products, including strollers, cots, portable cots, change tables, bassinets, high chairs, baths, baby monitors and furniture. Their products are available in many stores across all states and territories, including major retail chains such as Babies Galore. There were no Love N Care recalls listed in the 2008/09 period.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Runners up: Childcare and Bèbè Care   

  

Childcare had six recommended products in 2008/09 (a high chair, change table, two cots and two strollers), but its Captiva stroller failed a safety test.

Bèbè Care had three recommended products in 2008/09 (two strollers, one cot), but its Orion stroller failed a durability test.

We also considered companies such as Weeride, which makes a recommended child seat for bicycles - but making one product well isn't as impressive as making a wide range of good-quality products. 

Technology Innovator

For the 2009 Best Technology Innovator Award, the winning company had to meet our criteria and deliver innovative products over the past 12 months.
 

Award criteria

  • Innovation
  • Value
  • Transparency
  • Social benefits
  • Competition
  • Reliability 

Shortlist

  • Google
  • Amazon
  • Apple 

Winner: Google  Google

Google continues to release innovative products that are often completely free for consumers to use.

In 2009 Google released Android, a new open-source smartphone operating system that promises to give the iPhone a run for its money; Google Wave, a new take on communication and collaboration tools; and Google Chrome, competing with browsers such as Microsoft Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox. Chrome also came top in CHOICE Computer's 2010 browser test comparing performance, features and compliance with web standards.

Google also takes social responsibility seriously. In response to the Haiti earthquake, appeals were posted on the Google homepage - the most viewed webpage in the world - with no promotion of any kind. And in a widely supported decision, Google has threatened to pull out its entire business from China, the world's largest market, over alleged censorship by the government.
 

Runners up: Apple and Amazon

Apple's domination has been building over the past few years in the music player market with its innovative iPod range, and has also established the iPhone as the "must have" smartphone for 2009. Amazon has driven the adoption of the ebook with Kindle and electronic book distribution, although the Kindle's impact has yet to be significantly felt in Australia. The Apple iPad launches later in 2010 and along with the Kindle ebook readers should successfully compete with the traditional paperback novel.

Food Endorsement

A range of endorsement programs and logos has been developed for consumers who want to choose healthier or more sustainable food - yet consumers don't always know the level of integrity underpinning these programs and which ones they can rely on to be confident of their choices.

This award identifies the best food endorsement programs and logos that consumers can trust to guide their healthy or sustainable food choices.
 

Award criteria

  • Transparency
  • Consumer friendly
  • No conflict of interest
  • Stakeholder engagement
  • Accessible to businesses of all sizes
  • Independent verification  

Shortlist

  • Australian Certified Organic (ACO)
  • Dolphin Safe
  • Fair Trade
  • Free Range Egg & Poultry Australia Ltd (FREPA)
  • Glycemic Index Symbol
  • Heart Foundation Tick
  • NASAA Certified Organic
  • OGA Certified Organic
  • Rainforest Alliance Certified
  • RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme 

Winner: Australian Certified Organic (ACO)   logo-ACO

When CHOICE assessed Australian Certified Organic, it was one of only two programs that met all our criteria.

Our member poll also determined that ACO's logo was more widely recognised and more influential than our runner up, the NASAA logo.

ACO conducts annual, onsite third-party verification of producers or companies endorsed by its program. It's transparent about standards, governance and how it's funded, and it ticked all the boxes for consumer friendliness, which we consider vital given it's consumers who are using the logos to buy products and ultimately support the programs. ACO has mechanisms in place to avoid and manage conflict of interest; standards are open to broad public and industry consultation; and the program is accessible to producers and companies of all sizes.

As the ACO's logo was more widely recognised and more influential than NASAA's, ACO is our overall winner.
 

 

Runner up: National Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Australia (NASAA) Logo-NASAA

This program was the only other program assessed that met all of our award criteria. Both ACO and NASAA are accredited by several international regulatory groups and the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service (AQIS) as organic certifying organisations.

Best low-fee bank account

This award commends two banks moving in the right direction of low-fee transaction accounts. The two new accounts that met our criteria will help get money back into consumers' pockets and reduce the cost of everyday banking. 
 

Award criteria

  • Full transaction account functionality
  • Fee-free for most everyday transactions
  • No monthly fee or penalty fees
  • No requirement to bundle with another product of the financial institution
  • No requirement to make monthly contributions  

Shortlist

  • ING Direct Orange Everyday
  • NAB Classic Banking 

Winner: NAB Classic Banking  nab

NAB Classic Banking has no penalty fees, monthly fee or fees for most everyday transactions. Unlike ING Direct, it doesn't require ATM withdrawals of at least $200 to avoid fees. Its low fees are open to all, not just those depositing their salary each month.

NAB recently dropped the $5 monthly account fee that applied to its standard transaction account. The Big Four bank also showed genuine leadership by abolishing overdrawn account fees on personal transaction and savings accounts, the most common source of customer complaints.
 

 

Runner up: ING Direct Orange Everyday

ING has no ATM or branch network in Australia, but customers can use other banks' ATMs and Australia Post's Bank@Post for deposits and withdrawals. Third-party ATM fees apply, but are rebated for transactions of at least $200, and when customers use their debit card to get at least $200 cash out from a retailer, ING puts 50c into their account (smaller cash-out withdrawals are fee-free). ING does not charge penalty fees; like most banks, interest applies to overdrawn accounts. 

 

See our Money section for more tips and information about banking and savings accounts.

Heritage Award

CHOICE has tested thousands of products over the years. To celebrate our 50th anniversary, this award is given to our most consistently recommended brand over the past 50 years. Several companies have delivered consistent quality, performance and ease of use across a range of household and entertainment products. 
 

Award criteria

During our 50 years of serving consumers, we've confidently recommended many products to our members. The shortlisted companies for this award, Sony, Panasonic and Philips, have earned their place because of the number of products included in our 'What to Buy' or 'Recommended' lists over the past five decades.

 

TVs are among our most popular tests, and just one of the home electronics products where our shortlisted companies have been fighting for prime position. When colour arrived in Australia in 1975 we tested the latest massive 63cm colour TVs and all three brands scored well. As the decades progressed, Philips, Panasonic and Sony jockeyed for top brand, with Sony's Trinitron CRT TV enjoying some dominance in the 1990s and Panasonic scoring well in the 21st century with its plasma TVs.
 

Shortlist

  • Panasonic
  • Sony
  • Philips 

Winner: Panasonic Panasonic

Panasonic has the highest number of recommended models across a wide range of products over the past 40 years, and was among the top three brands in the 1960s and early 1970s when trading as National.
 

 

 

 

 

Runners up: Sony and Philips

Sony and Philips have become part of the Australian home landscape since the introduction of home hi-fi entertainment in the 1960s. In the 1970s, CHOICE testers identified the effect companies such as Sony and Philips were having on the Australian home entertainment landscape since the arrival of TV, as they marvelled at the emerging concept of devoting entire rooms in new houses to watching TV. 

 

 

Back to the future: 1979

 CHOICE archivesThere was a time when free-to-air television was not only the dominant form of visual electronic entertainment at home, it was the only choice. Back in the 1970s, viewing options were Channel 7, Channel 9, the ABC (Channel 2) and the fledgling Channel 10. With only four channels to choose from, consumers were desperate to watch as many of the few available shows as possible.

A test of VCRs by CHOICE in 1979 revealed how much consumers were willing to pay to exercise their right to watch what they wanted, when they wanted. All three of our shortlisted Heritage Award companies - Panasonic (National at the time), Sony and Philips - were represented. At the time, the CHOICE tester said that "although still expensive at $1000 to $1500, video cassette recorders or VCRs that can capture TV programs off the air have also captured the imagination - and discretionary income - of consumers everywhere".

VCRs had only been on the Australian market for little more than a year, and already our tester saw trouble brewing about which format to use. While most of us are familiar with the BETA/VHS format war of the early 1980s, some may not know that early users of VCRs had a third tape format to consider. The Philips VCR used the Philips 2000 tape format, while Sony used Betamax and Panasonic/National used VHS tape. While we all know which tape won out in the end, our tester suggested it might be a good idea to hold off buying a VCR until the companies had decided on a common format.

Finally, our CHOICE tester gazed into his crystal ball and suggested that prerecorded tapes, where consumers could buy or rent movies, may prove popular.

Ian Jarret, right, at the awards ceremony. 

Winner: Ian Jarratt

As part of the CHOICE Awards, we also wanted to pay tribute to the winner of our inaugural Consumer Action Award, Ian Jarratt (pictured right, with CHOICE CEO Nick Stace).
When you see the price per 100g or 100mL alongside the shelf price of most items in supermarkets, you’re witnessing the lasting legacy of Ian’s advocacy in action. The arrival of a national mandatory unit pricing (UP) scheme for pre-packaged groceries at the end of 2009 was due to his drive, zeal and eye for detail.
As a researcher and campaigner with the volunteer-only Queensland Consumer Association, Ian wanted Australia to enjoy the benefits of a world-class system of UP. The pricing mechanism allows consumers to compare value easily across brands and different-sized packages, and has been in use in Europe and some parts of North America for 25 years.
But Ian appreciated there could be many pitfalls in any scheme without consumer advocates focusing forensic attention on the small print of the code retailers might follow. To prove his point and get detailed information on UP overseas, he was the worthy recipient of a Churchill Fellowship and visited the USA and four European nations in 2007.
He followed this with many detailed written submissions to politicians, governments and the 2008 Australian Competition and Consumer Commission grocery inquiry. Ian then helped CHOICE participate in widespread consultations over the then proposed plan.
Now we have unit pricing, but Ian is not resting on his laurels. He’s still fighting for improvements in terms of legibility, prominence and consumer education about the scheme.
For his tireless, selfless and modest devotion to a singular cause to benefit consumers and his continuing work to make it better, Ian Jarratt has demonstrated himself a worthy recipient of this Award.

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