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 don't need one snack for your toddler and another for everyone else.
Kiddylicious Strawberry Fruit Wriggles
This packaged toddler snack earned its Shonky for being 68.8% sugar, yet misleading parents into thinking it's a healthy option with images of strawberries on the packaging and "made with real fruit" claims.
We hope that calling out marketing tricks like these will steer people away from buying such sugar bombs. But we also appreciate that parents are often in a rush and sleep deprived – and want a healthy snack for their toddler, fast.
The good news is that toddlers can eat the same healthy food as the rest of the family, so you don't need one snack for them and another for everyone else.
If you still want the convenience of a packaged snack, but without all the added sugar, ignore the marketing claims and read the ingredients list first
"Fresh fruit pieces, vegie sticks, cheese cubes, plain yoghurt or wholemeal toast fingers are all healthy alternatives that are quick to prepare," says CHOICE food and nutrition expert Rachel Clemons.
And if you still want the convenience of a packaged snack from the baby and toddler aisle of the supermarket, but without all the added sugar, ignore the marketing claims and read the ingredients list first.
"Look for products with a small ingredients list consisting of whole foods and no added sugars and salt," says Clemons. "And if it's a fruity snack you're after, where possible choose a product that contains whole fruit ingredients – not just fruit concentrates, pastes, purees and powders."
You'll probably need evidence that your bladeless fan isn't doing its job.
Knock-off bladeless fans
We gave these bladeless fans a Shonky for the simple reason that they blow – or rather, they don't.
"Almost every feature didn't work… the performance was the worst we've ever seen," says CHOICE tester Adrian Lini.
Unfortunately, if you've already bought this $150 dud, you may find it difficult to get a refund, as retailers aren't obliged to accept a returned product because it got bad reviews.
"It has to actually be faulty, or not fit for purpose," says Lini.
What's more, we've found Kogan (one of the retailers that sell a version of this fan) to be a repeat offender when it comes to making the refunds process harder than it should be.
However, if you have any evidence that the fan isn't doing its job, you may have more luck.
"For example, if you can't feel a decent airflow or believe it isn't making any difference to the ambient temperature, that may be a good reason to take it back – and use our review to back up the claim," adds Lini.
And if you're looking for a replacement item, our pedestal and tower fans buying guide explains what features to look out for.
If it's unopened and you have the receipt, try to return it.
With a $499 price tag (plus $309 in yearly costs), the Breville FoodCycler will reduce food waste and your bank balance, which is why it's bagged a 2021 Shonky Award.
"You can pick up a standard compost bin instead for around $45, which is just as effective at reducing food waste and is much kinder to your wallet," says CHOICE home economist Fiona Mair.
But if you've bought into the hype and already have a FoodCycler at home, what are your options?
"If it's unopened and you have the receipt, you may be able to return it for a refund," says Mair.
"Otherwise, you could try to save on the yearly energy costs by only running it during off-peak hours, when the price of electricity is lower."
You can also save on yearly running costs by changing how often you run the FoodCycler. If you use it daily, it's recommended that filters and other parts be replaced every few months.
"But if you only run the FoodCycler a couple of times a week instead of every day, you may not have to spend as much money on buying replacement filters," adds Mair. "Those savings will add up."
If you're struggling to pay off debt, help is available.
Thanks to a loophole in the National Credit Code, this buy now, pay later (BNPL) service can send customers into $30,000 of debt without properly assessing their ability to repay it. Now that's shonky.
"They are a free, independent and confidential service that assists people with debt."
If you've borrowed money from Humm, or indeed any BNPL service and are struggling to make the repayments, call the National Debt Helpline
The service helps people clarify their options and offers 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 ask for a more suitable repayment arrangement, and to access hardship options," adds Evans.
We have some tips to help you escalate unresolved airline complaints.
The Airline Customer Advocate
The Airline Customer Advocate (ACA) was awarded a Shonky for being no more than a forwarding service at a time when people needed it the most.
Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, many Australians have had to contend with cancelled flights and fights for refunds – and haven't always had the best experience resolving their issues with the airlines.
"This is where the Airline Customer Advocate should step in," says CHOICE consumer rights expert Alison Elliott. "The trouble is, it doesn't have the power to make binding decisions so that airlines are bound to treat customers well."
Instead, the service will simply forward your complaint to the airline and ask for a response in 20 days.
So what should you do if you have an unresolved airline complaint?
You may even need to quote your conditions of carriage back to the airline to argue your case
As with any consumer problem, you should contact the business – in this case, the airline – first and make a formal complaint. You may even need to quote your conditions of carriage back to the airline to argue your case.
If the airline's response is unsatisfactory or you're having difficulty getting through to customer service, you can still contact the ACA – after all, at the very least the airlines are obligated to respond (although not necessarily resolve the issue) within 20 days.
"If you're still unable to resolve the matter and need to escalate your complaint, contact the ACCC or your local state or territory consumer protection agency," says Elliott.
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.