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Shonky success stories

How the Shonky Awards have led to some amazing wins for consumers.

shonkys wins trophy
Last updated: 05 November 2020
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Checked for accuracy by our qualified fact-checkers and verifiers. Find out more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

For the past 60 years, CHOICE testing has helped everyday Australians sort the good products and services from the bad and the unsafe. 

Some products we've looked at are clearly a waste of money – such as the insurance policy against alien abduction. Other products are more subtle. At first glance they may appear to be perfectly fine, only to prove shonky later on once you've already parted with your cash.

Those are the products we're particularly interested in shining a light on, and were the inspiration for the launch of the first ever CHOICE Shonky Awards in 2006. 

More than 100 Shonkys awarded

Since then, we've awarded more than 100 Shonkys to businesses or products for a range of reasons including misleading marketing claims, ripping off consumers and being downright dangerous.

The awards were created to raise awareness of shonky products and services among Australians, and to put pressure on businesses and the government to ensure that what we buy is safe, and works. 

We've had some amazing wins as a result. Here are just five of them.

Shonkys_QANTAS plane

We hit Qantas with some Shonky turbulence in 2009 for its soaring credit-card surcharges.

1. Sky-high credit card surcharges

For years, any Australian who used a credit card to pay for a product or service was punished in the form of excessive surcharges that didn't reflect the real cost of credit card processing.

The airline industry was one of the worst offenders, which is why we awarded Qantas a Shonky in 2009. They took the prize for applying a whopping 517% markup to a credit card booking for a $500 international flight to Fiji. 

Looking at domestic flights, their fees were still excessive – applying a 375% markup to a $200 Sydney-Melbourne return flight. Low-cost airline Tiger were also guilty of massive markups – applying a 641% mark up on the same flight – which is why they were named Shonky runner-up. 

In 2016, the federal government passed new legislation banning excessive payment surcharges

CHOICE's long-running campaign to end excessive credit card fees led to even more Shonkys (Cabcharge, and Ticketmaster and Ticketek) and a partial win in 2013 when the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) gave credit card companies the go ahead to clamp down on businesses gouging consumers with excessive fees. 

But we knew more could be done and continued to lobby for further reforms to the industry until 2016, when the federal government passed new legislation banning excessive payment surcharges and providing new powers for the ACCC to crack down on companies doing the wrong thing. 

This was a huge win for Australians as it saved them literally millions of dollars in excessive fees.

Shonkys_pain nurofen

Bitter pill – Nurofen's dodgy 'targeted pain relief' claim earned it a Shonky in 2010.

2. Targeted pain relief

In 2010 CHOICE awarded Nurofen a Shonky for its dodgy targeted pain relief products. The company offered a range of higher priced caplets for migraine, back, tension headache and period pain, and claimed that each product was formulated to treat a specific area. 

A fast-acting painkiller that goes directly to the source? It sounded too good to be true. And it was. The reality was that all the 'targeted relief' products contained the same active ingredient, meaning it would have the same effect throughout the body, regardless of the area of pain.

The ACCC later took action against Reckitt Benckiser (the manufacturer of Nurofen), accusing them of engaging in misleading conduct. In 2016, the full federal court ordered them to pay a $6 million fine and to remove the targeted pain products from shelves. 

Shonkys Samsung WD16J9845KG 16kg Front Load-Washer Dryer Combo Left Angle high e

Samsung's washer and dryer won a 2017 Shonky for taking 6.5 hours to dry a load.

3. Samsung washer and dryer

Samsung have received multiple nominations over the years, notably for concerns in relation to their products catching fire. But their 2017 nod was for selling a $3000 lemon, namely the Samsung WD16J9845KG washer/dryer combo.

When testing this model in the CHOICE labs we uncovered a host of problems, most notably that it used a massive 210 litres of water and took six-and-a-half hours to dry a load. This led it to receive a score of zero in our drying time test. 

"In the time it takes to dry a load of clothes, you could nab a cheap fare from Sydney to the Gold Coast and dry them on the beach every week for nearly a year instead of buying this shonky product," we said at the time.

Following the publication of our test results, Samsung contacted CHOICE for more data about our product testing. The model was discontinued shortly afterwards.  

Samsung Washer Dryer – CHOICE Shonky Awards 2017

CHOICE white goods expert Ashley Iredale mixes business and pleasure on the Gold Coast.

4. Viagogo

Selling invalid tickets, engaging in illegal 'drip pricing', using pressure sales tactics, giving consumers the runaround when they complain... Viagogo was a worthy Shonky Award winner in 2017.

In an investigation earlier that year we highlighted the ticket reseller's dodgy practices, hearing numerous stories from people overpaying for tickets or who unknowingly bought invalid tickets and were refused entry to the concert or event.

Viagogo_logo

The ticket reseller won a Shonky in 2017 for its impressive lineup of dodgy practices.

CHOICE passed the results of our investigation on to the ACCC, who then launched court proceedings against Viagogo. In a huge win for consumers, Viagogo has been fined $7 million after the federal court last year found that Viagogo had made false or misleading representations and engaged in conduct that was likely to mislead the public, and the NSW government introduced tough new laws for ticket resellers, including making it an offence to resell a ticket for a profit. 

Unfortunately, despite a brief ban from advertising on Google, Viagogo still appears as one of the top results for searches for upcoming events such as Hamilton The Musical. And when we shopped for tickets earlier this year we found they were up to many of their old tricks.

Shonkys_flood

Wash out – the entire insurance industry won a Shonky in 2011 for failing to define a "flood".

5. The insurance industry

In the summer of 2010 to 2011, widespread flooding devastated Queensland and parts of NSW and Victoria, resulting in the loss of life and billions of dollars worth of damage. 

But when rebuilding efforts began, thousands of homeowners were horrified to discover their insurance, which they'd been paying for years in the event of such a disaster, wouldn't cover them. 

Why? Because the insurance industry had failed to come up with a standard definition for flood, meaning many policies had a series of carve-outs and restrictions that left many consumers without cover. We even heard stories about people in the same street affected by the same flood receiving completely different outcomes when making a claim. 

CHOICE awarded the whole industry a Shonky in 2011 and lobbied industry and government to come up with a solution that didn't leave Australians without a home after a flood. 

One year later, the federal government took action and amended the Insurance Contracts Regulations 1985 to finally include a standard definition of flood, although it didn't take effect until 2014. 

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