The 2008 CHOICE Shonky Awards

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  • Updated:13 Sep 2008

02.And the award goes to

The CHOICE Shonky for Muddled Disguise

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Vodka Mudshake Original Chocolate

Vodka MudshakeDrinking alcohol is an undeniable part of Australian social life. While the legal age for buying alcohol is 18, underage drinking is a big issue. Let’s target an opportunity, thought parts of the alcohol industry, and create and market drinks that combine sweet flavours, bright colours, trendy names and packaging with alcohol – and alcopops were born.

They’ve become the most commonly consumed form of alcohol among 12- to 17-year-old girls, and the drink of choice for underage binge drinkers. When CHOICE conducted a blind taste test with 78 teenagers aged 18 and 19, they all recognised alcohol in beer and wine. But only about two thirds overall thought the alcopops contained alcohol, and only about half of the males detected it in the Vodka Mudshake Original Chocolate.

Disguising 4% alcohol in a drink that looks and tastes like a milkshake? We think that’s really shonky.

The CHOICE Shonky for Warranty, Schmarranty

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Equititrust capital warranty

Model house - Equititrust“Earn 9.5% pa warranted,” the ad says. “You wouldn’t buy a telly without a warranty … so why would you invest without one,” the ad says. Don’t trust an investment offer that sounds too good to be true, CHOICE says. We guarantee that warranty is shonky.

Equititrust is a mortgage trust offering interest rates a bit above what you can get for bank deposits with similar terms. It uses the investors’ money for developer and other property loans. The marketing is centred around its supposed safety, but the $10 million the company has set aside for its “capital warranty” covers only about 2.4% of the mortgage trust’s value.

Now, most consumers understand warranties (such as for a toaster) to involve the replacement of the entire product should it prove defective. But there’s no such promise for this investment.

What’s more, the product disclosure statement quite clearly details the higher risks of investing in Equititrust compared with banks: for example, it’s not as strict as banks when assessing the borrowers’ capacity to repay their loans and accepts higher risks, and some loans are secured by developments that have yet to be built.

So despite advertising a warranty, Equititrust itself admits that “there can be no guarantee of a return of capital or income”. As we said: why would you?

The CHOICE Shonky for Last Banks Standing

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Adelaide Bank and HSBC

HSBC - piggy bank floating face down in waterLast year, Westpac accepted a Shonky on behalf of the Big Four banks for unfair penalty fees. Most banks have since reduced or dropped a number of those fees, at least on some accounts.

However, Adelaide Bank and HSBC continue to soldier on with a fee that’s particularly unfair and difficult to justify – the inwards cheque dishonour fee. If you deposit a cheque into your regular transaction account with these banks and it bounces, you’ll be charged $12 and $5, respectively.

A popular defence the banks use for charging penalty fees is that consumers can avoid them by keeping track of their spending, regularly checking account balances, and so on. However, there’s no way you can avoid a third party doing the wrong thing and not honouring a cheque they wrote to you.

Charging these fees is just shonky, and CHOICE urges Adelaide Bank and HSBC to drop them on all accounts.


The CHOICE Shonky for Get Real – Bullshit (h2o+sugar+hype)

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Glaceau Vitamin Water

Red Vitamin water bottleHey, where do we start? This range of “nutrient enhanced water beverages” by Coca-Cola Amatil Australia is so shonky on so many levels that we could award each individually. With names like essential – orange-orange (c+calcium) or revive – fruit punch (c+b3+b5+b6+b12) and fruity colours, you’d be forgiven for thinking these drinks are healthy, or contain fruit juice. Which they’re not. And which they don’t.

Apart from the fact we think some of the marketing messages suggesting health benefits are in breach of food regulations, one bottle contains about a third of the recommended daily sugar intake for an average adult woman – hardly healthy. And none contains more than 1% fruit juice. What they do contain is flavouring, but you find that only in the fine print.

Then there’s this message on one flavour: “Legally, we are prohibited from making exaggerated claims about the potency of the nutrients in this bottle.” Followed by a number of exaggerated claims about the potency of the nutrients in the bottle.

We here at the Shonkys recognise humour when it slaps us in the face. But blatantly mocking food regulations designed to protect consumers from unsubstantiated and potentially misleading health claims? That’s not funny – that’s shonky.

The CHOICE Shonky for Egg On Your Face

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Australian Egg Corporation

EggsIf you’re concerned about animal welfare, you may have been buying free-range eggs in the hope they come from more cheerful chooks than their cramped cage cousins. After all, some of the cartons show happy hens roaming in lush, green paddocks. But don’t be fooled. The term “free-range” has no legal definition in Australia, found a CHOICE report.

There are voluntary standards, such as FREPAA’s, the Free Range Egg and Poultry Association of Australia. However, the vast majority of free-range eggs are certified by the Australian Egg Corporation, the national industry body representing about 90% of producers. Conveniently, its Egg Corp Assured scheme has a more relaxed definition of free-range than the voluntary standards, making it easier for members to use the free-range label and access the shopping dollar from concerned consumers.

Even true free-range chooks spend more time in a shed than outdoors. But while FREPAA restricts the number of hens to seven per square metre of shed area, Egg Corp Assured allows 14 – not much less than the 18 /m² in cage systems. Unlike FREPAA, Egg Corp allows beak trimming and shed sizes on a scale that means many chooks will never find their way outdoors.

CHOICE thinks there’s an urgent need for a clear national definition of free-range, and tighter regulation, rather than continued reliance on a shonky industry scheme.


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Video: NutriZero

A parody advert for 'vitamin-enhanced' waters.

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