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Shonkys turn 10

Shonky behaviour from companies is the unfortunate gift that keeps on giving.

October 2015

Since 2006, we've given out more than 70 awards to companies that have flouted consumer protection laws, sold products that were faulty by design, and shown blatant disregard for consumer safety.

Ten years on, it should be getting harder for us to find products and services that are deserving of Shonky shame, yet in 2015 we faced the opposite problem, as we debated how to whittle down the long list of nominations.

What's disturbing when you look back over the past 10 years of 'winners' is that there are some persistent themes.

One of the strongest is outrageous marketing claims. These are clearest where the very name of a product or business is misleading. The 2006 award to  Lean Cuisine's 'Purely Fish' frozen meal – that was only 48% fish – has had many successors, such as the 2013 award to Credit Repair Australia, which actually can't repair your credit record and, if anything, is likely to leave you out of pocket.

Another common bugbear is outrageous fees and charges, particularly when paying by credit card. Over 10 years we've singled out major airlines, taxi companies and ticketing businesses for this shonky behaviour.

Some awards are for products that are downright irresponsible – as highlighted by two from this year's batch. It's simply not acceptable for a major company like Kleenex to make consumers think that flushable wipes break down as well as toilet paper, when in reality they're causing havoc for sewerage authorities across the country.

And NAB should hang its head in shame for its 'low rate' credit card. Not only has NAB increased the interest rate on this card during a period where official interest rates have plunged, with a rate that's 40% higher than plenty of genuine low-rate cards this product fails to live up to basic standards of decency.

You might ask why we keep on with the Shonkys if it's such a frustrating experience. The answer is we know it's effective.

After the 2014 Shonky to CBA for its terrible handling of its financial advice scandal, the big four banks beat a path to our door, suddenly keen to consult us about their consumer compensation schemes.

When we called out the Jetset Travelworld Group for forcing consumers to sign away their credit card chargeback rights in 2012, consumer regulators swung into action and within weeks the group had agreed to change its standard contracts.

And our relentless campaign on credit card surcharges is bearing fruit, with several states capping credit card surcharges on taxi fares and increasing pressure on the federal government to put some teeth behind RBA rules that ban excessive surcharges.

We hope that one day the Shonkys won't need to exist, but while we continue to find deserving companies, we'll keep handing them out. View our 2015 Shonky winners.

Alan Kirkland, CEO
Twitter: @AlanKirkland