Perhaps because they are so high profile, or perhaps because they're a bit controversial, I get more questions about the Shonkys than anything else we do. Here are some of the most common things I'm asked:
Why do you do the Shonkys?
We haven't always done them – while CHOICE has been around since 1960, we've only been handing out Shonkys since 2006.
I think the original idea came out of a frustration about the number of bad products we were coming across in our testing and investigations and a desire to do more about it.
Giving an award to a bad product hopefully has two effects. Firstly, it's like a big, red 'Do not buy' sign on the particular product. We hope that if you search for information online before buying, one of the first things you'll find is a reference to the Shonky Award.
It's like a big, red 'Do not buy' sign on the particular product
Secondly, it's a warning to the entire industry about what we expect, and the sorts of practices that might lead them to be criticised by CHOICE.
We hope that those two factors lift the quality of products overall, so you're less likely to end up with a dud. Our article in the November issue of CHOICE magazine on improvements to pet insurance since we gave it an industry-wide Shonky in 2019 is a great example of this in action.
How do you choose them?
The problem isn't coming up with ideas – it's working out which ones are most deserving. Almost every day, we come across something that could be a Shonky Award winner, whether it's from a tip off from a member, a social media post, a conversation with a consumer lawyer or financial counsellor, or one of our product tests or investigations.
These make their way onto a list that we filter, fact check and debate over several months before settling on a final list. We're careful about this process because we know that receiving a Shonky is a serious thing.
But don't you get sued?
While we get lots of legal threats, it's been many years since someone tried to sue us.
The rigour with which we approach all of our work is an important reason for this. We're one of the few organisations in Australia that still employs professional fact checkers and verifiers. They make sure our sources are credible, our calculations correct and our language precise. They'll often convince us to take an idea off the Shonky list if they don't think the evidence is strong enough.
It's been many years since someone tried to sue us. The rigour with which we approach all of our work is an important reason for this
This means that we're confident that what we say about Shonky Award winners is an honest opinion, based on clear evidence, which makes it pretty hard for anybody to sue us. That does not, however, stop them threatening us!
We hope you'll enjoy reading this year's list – but that also means that the process of searching for next year's winners has already begun. If you've got a suggestion, please let us know.