Consumer watchdog CHOICE has named and shamed the year’s most misleading, shoddy and unsafe products. Have you been dudded by anything on the list?
CHOICE held the 9th annual Shonky Awards yesterday, throwing the book at Australia’s dodgiest products.
“There’s no shortage of examples of businesses that need to do better,” CHOICE CEO Alan Kirkland said before handing out the ‘awards’. “When we put out the call to the public this year we were swamped by the number of nominations.”
So, what made the list?
Fantastic “Gluten Free” Rice Crackers
Technically, this isn’t completely shonky — Fantastic’s gluten-free rice crackers contain no gluten, as advertised. The problem? Regular rice crackers don’t contain gluten, either, and you don’t pay a premium for them.
Coles “Fresh Baked” Bread
You’ve probably heard about this one already. Coles was busted by the Australian Federal Court recently for advertising bread as “freshly baked in store” when it was actually produced months ago in another country altogether. Coles has been banned from promoting baked-then-frozen bread as “fresh” for three years, which seems like an odd time limit to throw in there — surely the concept of “fresh” won’t change so dramatically in three years that frozen bread from overseas will qualify?
This is a bit of an odd one. CHOICE put the cult favourite Thermomix TM31 all-in-one mixer through the wringer and found no problems with its performance. The issue was with how its successor was rolled out — the TM5 was released on 6 September with absolutely no prior warning.
Sure, it’s cool when Beyonce drops an album without warning, but when Thermomix did it, it meant that people who had bought TM31s just days before — and had specifically asked if there was an upgrade on the horizon — felt massively ripped off, and saw the resale value of their TM31 drop by hundreds of dollars overnight.
Not convinced? Vorwerk/Thermomix received the highest number of public nominations in Shonkys history, so somebody was obviously outraged.
Arnott’s Tim Tams Peanut Butter Flavour
Wait, what? Say it ain’t so, CHOICE! If we can’t trust Tim Tams, the ultimate comfort food, what can we trust in this crazy, mixed-up world?
Well, it turns out Tim Tams are pretty great — but Peanut Butter Flavour Tim Tams leave a little to be desired. When something is marketed as “peanut butter flavoured”, you’d expect it to contain, well, peanuts. Instead, the flavour in Arnott’s Peanut Butter Tim Tams comes from paprika.
As if that wasn’t enough of a betrayal, the peanut butter packet comes with two fewer biscuits than a regular Tim Tam packet, despite being identically priced and using the same packaging.
Come on, guys — next you’ll be telling us the Tim Tam Genie isn’t real…
Bankwest Kids’ Bonus Saver account
At first glance, the Bankwest Kids’ Bonus Saver account’s 5.75 per cent interest rate looks like a great way to teach kids about the benefits of saving money. But it’s actually teaching kids a very different, but no less valuable, lesson — don’t trust the banks.
The 5.75 per cent rate is just a teaser, valid for 12 months only. After that, Bankwest sweeps all but $1 of the kids’ savings into a low-interest account that pays just one per cent for amounts below $3000. They even try to spin this as a positive for the kids — it’s “so they can start their savings all over again”.
Lesson learned, kids.
S-26 Gold Toddler and Junior
It’s hardly a secret that kids don’t like eating anything that looks like it might be good for them, so you can understand why parents might get desperate. S-26 are here to take advantage of that desperation.
This formula says it provides “nutritional support for young kids”, but here’s the thing — health professionals say toddler and junior milks aren’t needed for healthy kids over the age of one, and you might actually be hurting your kids by offering them another liquid at a time when they should be moving on to solids.
In case there was any doubt that this was all just a bid to exploit parental anxiety, S-26 promotes the drink to retailers in an industry trade magazine with this little gem: “Keep mums buying with our extended range of nutritious milk drinks”.
Amazon Kindle Paperwhite
Here’s a bit of creative accounting that’ll impress spin doctors everywhere — the backlit Amazon Kindle Paperwhite claims to offer eight weeks of battery life from a single charge. That’s awfully impressive, especially when the advertising compares the Paperwhite’s eight weeks to a laptop (five to nine hours), tablet (five to 10 hours), and smartphone (four to 13 hours).
Here’s the thing, though (there’s always a thing). The fine print says that the Paperwhite’s “eight weeks” of battery life is based on just 30 minutes of reading a day. But the comparisons with its competitors were based on continuous use, which is really the only useful measurement of battery life.
In reality, the Paperwhite’s actual battery life is 28 hours. That’s still very good compared to a laptop, tablet or smartphone, but it’s relatively standard for an e-reader.
Amazon tried to compare apples with oranges, but they just ended up with a lemon.
As we head into the warmer months, plenty of you have probably headed into Kmart to snatch up a cheap swimsuit. But have you looked at the label?
The disclaimers reach new heights of absurdity, including advice to avoid suntan lotions, heated pools, spas and water (moisture makes them see-through, you understand).
Sounds like it’ll be pretty easy to spot the people wearing Kmart swimsuits at the beach this summer.
Presiding over one of Australia’s worst financial planning failures was bad enough, but it was what they did after that catastrophe that earned them a place in the Shonky winners’ circle.
A senate inquiry reported that the CBA’s financial planners orchestrated a “calculated deceit” to put clients into risky investments in order to meet bonus goals, ruining lives and robbing people of their life savings. The compensation offered to consumers was a long time in coming, and, according to the senate inquiry, potentially insufficient, leading to the need for a Royal Commission to be established to sort it out.
In the meantime, CBA has been lobbying to water down mandatory financial advice protections designed to protect consumers from financial planning disasters exactly like this one.
Oh, and while all this was going on, CBA posted a profit of more than $8 billion. Smooth.
If you fell victim to a Shonky finalist, now’s the time to do something about it — cast your vote for the “People’s Choice” Shonky at choice.com.au.
Have you been ripped off lately? Vent about it in the comments below.