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2014 Shonky Award Winners

Commonwealth Bank, Arnott’s, Amazon Kindle, Kmart and Thermomix were among the seven companies named and shamed at CHOICE’s annual Shonky Awards in Sydney today.

14 October 2014

“The CHOICE Shonky Awards put the spotlight on products and services that are sneaky, slippery, unscrupulous and sometimes unsafe. The risk of receiving an infamous Shonky encourages businesses to sharpen up their act and put consumers first,” says CHOICE chief executive, Alan Kirkland.

“This year we had a record 1041 Shonky nominations from across Australia, which highlights the level of consumer concern about shonky products and services.”   

This year’s Shonky Award winners are:

Commonwealth Bank

The Commonwealth Bank’s response to one of the Australia’s biggest financial planning failures was questionable at best. After a long delay in acknowledging fault, they lobbied to remove financial advice protections while offering up a slick PR campaign in an attempt to apologise for losing consumers’ life savings. Which bank can? CONBANK

Arnott’s Tim Tam (Peanut Butter Flavour)

Most Aussies love a Tim Tam at tea time but Arnott’s departure from its traditional chocolate treat this year left many consumers with a bad taste in their mouths. Not only did the company forego peanuts in its ‘peanut butter flavour’ biscuits (though paprika was a surprising inclusion), they offered poor value by cutting two biscuits and 35g from the pack while maintaining the same price and package size.

S26 Gold Toddler and Junior

In marketing its S-26 Gold Toddler and Junior powdered milk to retailers in an industry trade magazine, S26 offered up this devious dose of spin: “Keep mums buying with our extended range of nutritious milk drinks”. The problem is professionals advise that toddler and junior milks aren’t needed for healthy kids over the age of one, and that the focus should be on increasing solids and developing better eating habits. So for milking parental guilt in a toddler and junior formula market worth over $99m, we think it’s time S-26 was watered down with a hefty dose of lemon.

BankWest

For showing kids why banks can’t be trusted by offering a 12 month teaser rate of 5.75% on its Bankwest Kids’ Bonus Saver account before sweeping all but $1 into a low interest account paying just one per cent for amounts below $3000. If that wasn’t bad enough they then punish kids who make withdrawals with a miserable rate for that month of 0.01%. We think banks who raid kids’ piggybanks should be rolled in lemon scented mud.

Thermomix/Vorwerk

This mighty mixer may perform well in our tests but the company behind Thermomix shredded the trust of its customers this year, resulting in over 530 nominations from the public. The flawed launch of its new model left loyal ‘Thermo fans’  out of pocket and hot under the collar. The company’s decision not to notify consumers of the imminent release its first new model in 7 years in a bid to keep spinning dough was nothing short of Shonky. CHOICE has referred Thermomix to the ACCC.

Kmart Swimwear

Budgy smugglers might be iconic Australian swimmers but we think Kmart is unAustralian for selling swimwear that will have you running for the change room. Can you really smuggle your budgy if the swimwear may become see-through when wet? And then they offer this hopeless warning: avoid “excessive contact” (whatever that means) with suntan lotions, oils, rough surfaces, heated pools and spas treated with harsh chemicals. Kmart’s sheer cheek is so very Shonky.   

Amazon Kindle

One of Amazon’s biggest selling points for its new Kindle’s Paperwhite e-reader is that it can last an impressive eight weeks. But don’t judge a book by its cover – this marketing spin is almost as creative as an Enron financial audit. The fine print reveals that the eight weeks of juice relies on the Kindle Paperwhite being used for 30 minutes a day. That means the Kindle’s battery life is actually 28 hours – typical for many e-readers. CHOICE has referred Amazon Kindle to the ACCC.

While not every Shonky Award winner may be breaking laws or breaching regulations, CHOICE believes that consumers deserve better products and services, and the 2014 lemons are ripe for the picking.

“We hope the Shonkys encourage consumers to look critically at the goods and services they use, and question poor service, hidden costs and the fine print beneath claims that seem too good to be true,” says Mr Kirkland.

CHOICE wants to hear from consumers – which is the Shonkiest of the 2014 CHOICE Shonky winners? Vote on our 2014 Shonkys People’s Choice Awards here: shonkys.com.au

Access the full report on the 2014 Shonky winners at shonkys.com.au

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