CHOICE's annual Shonky Awards shine a light on dodgy products or services to inform consumers and encourage businesses to do better.
But what should you do if you've already bought one of these Shonkys? Here, we explain what steps you can take, plus how to avoid them if you're in the market for one of these products or services.
You'll probably need evidence that your GreenTech PureAir 500 isn't doing its job.
GreenTech air purifiers
The GreenTech PureAir 500 air purifier was awarded a Shonky for the simple fact it just doesn't work. While we hope shining a light on such a pathetic purifier will steer people away from buying one – what can you do if you already own one?
Unfortunately, it's not as simple as trying to get a refund, as retailers aren't obliged to accept a returned product on the basis of it getting bad reviews.
"It has to actually be faulty, or not fit for purpose," says Chris Barnes, CHOICE household goods expert. "The latter could be hard to prove in the case of air purifiers, which tend to act rather invisibly."
Unfortunately, it's not as simple as trying to get a refund
But if you have any evidence that the air purifier isn't doing its job, then you might have more luck. For example, if someone burns the dinner, or gets cooking smells throughout the house, then a good air purifier should make a noticeable difference in clearing the air quickly.
"If the customer feels that their GreenTech is making no difference in that situation, that's a good reason to take it back – and use our review to back up the claim," says Barnes.
And if you're looking for a replacement item, our air purifier buying guide explains what different filters do and what features to look out for.
Owners of a Revitalife adjustable electric bed may be entitled to a refund.
Revitalife earned its Shonky after a CHOICE investigation found the company was targeting older Australians with a health survey, that was then used as a tool to sell pricey "therapeutic sleep systems" (AKA adjustable electric beds).
If you own one of these beds and are unhappy with it, you may be entitled to a refund.
The Australian Consumer Law (ACL) states that businesses that sell goods must guarantee that those goods are "fit for any purpose that the consumer made known to the business before buying (either expressly or by implication), or the purpose for which the business said it would be fit for".
"So if you've been sold a Revitalife bed on the promise that it will help with sleeping problems and are unsatisfied with its effectiveness in doing so, contact the company and request a refund, saying the product is not fit for purpose as marketed," says CHOICE investigative journalist Andy Kollmorgen .
Contact the company and request a refund, saying the product is not fit for purpose as marketed
If the company then claims it has the right to decide whether to offer a different remedy instead – as it does in the terms and conditions of the paperwork we looked at – then push back. The clause of the ACL it cited granting itself this option no longer exists.
The ACL stipulates that if the problem is major or cannot be fixed, then the consumer has the right to demand a refund or otherwise decide the remedy such as a repair or replacement. If you don't get a satisfactory response, contact the consumer agency in your state.
If a Revitalife consultant visits your home and tries to sell you a bed you don't want, you can ask them to leave. If you do, they must leave immediately and are then not allowed to contact you on behalf of Revitalife for at least 30 days.
Our article on how to handle telemarketers and door-to-door salespeople has more information.
If you agree to buy a bed, remember you have a "cooling off period" of 10 business days to cancel the unsolicited sales agreement for any reason without penalty.
It might be time to strike floor cleaners from the shopping list.
These products won a 2020 Shonky for being, well, flawed cleaners. But aside from swapping them for hot water and a bit of elbow grease, if you have a bottle or two hanging around under the sink, what are your options?
If the product is unopened and you have the receipt, you should be able to return it for a refund. If it's been used, it's worth checking the label to see if there's a 'like it or your money back' clause. Otherwise your best bet is to just write off the cost and move on.
Your best bet is to just write off the cost and move on
"I'd just use up what's left (after all it's not gonna hurt, and you already have it) and not buy it again," says CHOICE cleaning expert Ashley Iredale.
When it comes to mopping, Iredale says it's the scrubbing action that does all the work and recommends using a mop with a large head: "A bigger head means you cover more surface area per stroke, which cuts down mopping time."
If you're struggling to pay off debt, help is available.
We awarded the retailer a 2020 Shonky due to its partnership with Latitude Finance, which sees some customers sign up for credit cards with an eye-watering 22.74% interest.
"They are a free, independent and confidential service that assists people with debt."
If you have one of these cards and are struggling to make more than the minimum repayment, call the National Debt Helpline
The service helps people clarify their options and provides advice on how to manage your debts and move forward.
"They will be able to assist with strategies to help you pay down your debt, how to switch to a cheaper provider, access hardship options and to navigate the complexities of credit cards," adds Veyret.
It can be hard to get itemised quotes from InvoCare funeral companies – but we have some tips to help.
The biggest player in the Australian funeral industry picked up a gong due to their failure to be upfront about pricing.
With the exception of people living in NSW (where new legislation was introduced following a CHOICE investigation) and Victoria, it can be incredibly difficult to find out the itemised costs for a funeral package – which makes it hard to shop around for a good deal.
If you need to organise a funeral, before you even pick up the phone, think about what you want the funeral to be like – remembering that you might not even need a funeral director. Our funeral investigation series has a number of ideas and options you might want to consider, and explains what traps to watch out for.
It can be incredibly difficult to find out the itemised costs for a funeral package
CHOICE investigative journalist Saimi Jeong suggests contacting a number of providers to ask for itemised quotes in writing so you can compare the costs and services.
"That way you can choose to only engage with those that are transparent with pricing and flexible to your wishes," she says.
"Tell each one exactly what you have in mind (if you don't have anything in mind, that's OK too) and ask for itemised quotes in writing with a complete cost breakdown."
And if you'd like to see itemised, upfront funeral prices become mandatory throughout Australia, email your consumer affairs minister to tell them to change the law.
Need to take further action?
If you've been unable to resolve your problem, contact the relevant consumer agency or ombudsman in your state or territory.
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