Repeat offenders are not hard to come by in the consumer marketplace, which is why there's never a shortage of contenders for our annual Shonky Awards.
Some mend their ways after receiving a shiny lemon, while others are not so redeemable.
NSW Fair Trading is one the few state agencies that will name and shame traders if they get enough complaints – 10 or more per month. And a business only makes the NSW blacklist after the customer has attempted to resolve the issue themselves.
In the interest of consumer protection, NSW Fair Trading recently shared a list with CHOICE of the top five most complained about businesses in the first half of 2023.
"Releasing these complaints empowers everyone to create a fairer marketplace. Many of these complaints could be avoided if businesses resolved disputes more efficiently with their customers when things go wrong," says Fair Trading Commissioner Natasha Mann.
Three out of five have previously earned a Shonky
Three of the five on the NSW list have been the recipients of a CHOICE Shonky Award in recent years.
The complaints behind the NSW Fair Trading list are from NSW residents only, but the reach of these businesses is not confined to NSW.
Has one of these businesses rubbed you the wrong way this year?
1. Samsung Electronics (416 complaints)
In 2017, we handed Samsung a Shonky for a combination washer and dryer that we described as a 'a $3000 waste of time and water'. In our drying tests, the machine took more than 6.5 hours to complete a cycle and used 149 litres of fresh drinking water to remove three litres of water from our 3.5kg test load. Previously, we had conferred two other lemons on Samsung for selling dangerous products, namely a mobile phone with a tendency to catch fire and a washer with the same problem. The NSW Fair Trading complaints about Samsung range from the quality of goods to difficulties with refunds and warranty claims.
2. Tru Water (321 complaints)
In August 2022, NSW Fair Trading investigations and enforcement executive director Valerie Griswold sounded the alarm about this distributor of water filter systems, saying "I warn consumers not to deal with SPG Consultants," who trade using the website truwater.com.au and various versions of the business name Tru Water. Since April 2020, Fair Trading had received 355 complaints and 164 enquiries about the business. "Consumers complain about delayed and partial delivery of orders, products substituted without customer consent, and misrepresentation of goods advertised on the website," Griswold said in August 2022. The Tru Water complaints to Fair Trading about the quality of goods and the failure to deliver them have only kept coming through the first half of 2023.
3. Ticketek (281 complaints)
In 2012, Ticketek shared a CHOICE Shonky with Ticketmaster for tacking on credit card surcharges plus a service/delivery fee of (in Ticketek's case) up to $11.10 per ticket. It was just a tad outrageous, since a fee was charged even if you printed up the tickets yourself.The NSW Fair Trading complaints in 2023 involved the way Ticketek handled both cancellations and the supply of tickets in the first place. The businesses overall 'quality of service' also received low marks from customers.
4. Injectable Institute Australia (168 complaints)
If you're looking for Botox treatments or the like, your options have dwindled: Injectable Institute Australia – a chain of skin treatments across Sydney – is no more. The business went into liquidation in March 2023, leaving more than a few disgruntled customers in its wake.
5. Qantas (160 complaints)
We gave Qantas a Shonky for being the 'spirit of disappointment' last year, following a veritable onslaught of complaints to CHOICE from customers trying to use flight credits or get refunds. But those weren't the only issues. Call wait-times for Qantas customer service seemed designed to get you to give up. And Qantas's on-time domestic arrival record in most of 2022 was fairly dismal. The 2023 complaints to NSW Fair Trading about Qantas also involved frustrated requests for refunds, dealing with cancellations, and the catchall grievance, 'quality of service'.
Had a problem with one of the top 5? Tell CHOICE
If you've had a problem or bad experience with one of NSW Fair Trading's top five, or another trader, we're interested. Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your rights when a product fails
If a product or service you have purchased doesn't work as it should, you are entitled to a refund, repair or replacement.
Customers "should also expect that any problems with a seller are handled and resolved within a reasonable timeframe", says Commissioner Mann.
NSW residents can lodge a complaint with Fair Trading. Residents of other states and territories should lodge complaints with their respective state or territory consumer agency.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.