Which is more Shonky: the water wasting lemon or the Cabcharge gouge?


CHOICE lemons goes to a water wasting Samsung washing machine, troublesome Toblerone and Jetset Travelworld Group’s crappy contract.

A water wasting Samsung washing machine, the ridiculous serving sizes of Toblerone chocolate bars and the outrageous surcharges peddled by Ticketek and Ticketmaster have been awarded Shonkys at CHOICE’s seventh annual event for dodgy goods and services, held in Sydney today.

Other winners include Exit Mould and Coles Ultra Mould Remover which leave mould roots entrenched in grout to sprout another day; the Jetset Travelworld Group for the sneaky terms and conditions in their contracts; and Nature’s Way Kids Smart Natural Medicine range, which carry unsubstantiated claims.

The Shonky awards shine a spotlight on products and services that are sneaky, slippery, unscrupulous and sometimes unsafe. While Shonky award winners may not be breaking laws or breaching regulations, CHOICE believes that consumers deserve better products and services, and the 2012 lemons are ripe for the Shonky picking.

“The Shonky awards serve as a reminder that businesses cannot provide misleading, less than truthful or dangerous products to consumers. The dishonour of potentially receiving an infamous Shonky encourages businesses to provide the fairest and best quality products and services into the market,” said CHOICE spokesperson, Ingrid Just.

Other Shonky award winners include Liquipel, a $99 product that promises, but fails, to provide additional water protection for mobile phones and tablet computers, and Cabcharge for their excessive 10% credit card fee.

“We hope the Shonkys encourage consumers to look critically at the goods and services they use, question poor service, hidden costs, and the fine print beneath those claims that seem too good to be true,” said Ms Just.

The 2012 Shonky award winners

Shonky Winner: Samsung SW70SP 7kg top loader washing machine
Background: This machine used 224 litres of water on its auto-sensing mode to wash a 3.5kg load of clothes earning the washer a CHOICE score of 0% for water efficiency. The washer has a 4-star official water rating but this is calculated using a different program, not the auto-sensing program CHOICE tested and the one we believe most consumers would use. Our best buy top-loader used 73L on autosensing mode, and the most water efficient machine just 37L of water.
Shonky Winner: Jetset Travelworld
Background: Fine print in the contract of Jetset Travelworld Group (including Jetset Travelworld, Harvey World Travel and Best Flights), sees travellers waiving their ‘chargeback’ rights. This means that if a holiday that has been paid for on a credit card is not delivered (i.e. if the cruise ship does not sail) the agents can refuse the consumer’s request for chargeback through their credit card company, putting the onus on you to claim from their suppliers. While Jetset Travelworld Group is not acting illegally, we reckon asking consumers to waive this vital consumer protection is unethical and dodgy.
Shonky Winner: Nature’s Way Kid’s Smart Natural Medicines
Background: This is a range of homeopathic potions for cold and flu, runny nose and hayfever, pain and fever and for calming kids down. Products contain ingredients like strychnine and arsenic, which would be worrying except for the fact the dilution is one in a 1000 trillion (or 1 drop in 20,000 Olympic size swimming pools). Symptoms such as ‘restlessness, anxiety, irritability and agitation’ the ‘Calm’ product claims to treat can be symptoms of potentially serious childhood infectious diseases and may delay parents from seeking more appropriate medical advice. Nature’s Way were busted earlier this year for claims about the efficacy of the products but did not respond. Today we have asked the ACCC to enforce compliance. ¹
Shonky Winner: Ticketek/Ticketmaster
Background: Over-the-top and inescapable fees applied when purchasing tickets to an event or concert. The price of the additional fees depends on the ticket company, venue and the performer however examples include a $9.50 handling fee or $5.20 to receive an email ticket to print at home; $7.60 to pick up the ticket up from the venue; $5.60 to have the ticket sent via SMS; $11.10 to have the ticket sent via registered post, or $7.60 to have the ticket delivered by regular mail. Add a 1-3% credit card surcharge on top of that.
Shonky Winner: Toblerone
Background: Ridiculous serving sizes are causing frustrations for chocolate lovers. The number of mountain pieces in some Toblerone bars is not easily divisible by the recommended serving size. For example, the 400g bar has 15 mountain pieces yet the packaging claims it serves 16, the 200g bar has 15 mountain pieces but serves eight and the 50g bar has 11 mountain pieces but serves two. Only the 100g mountain bar can be divided sensibly with 12 pieces to four serves.
Shonky Winner: Cabcharge
Background: Cabcharge charges a hefty 10% surcharge on the trip fare for passengers who use credit cards however the company prefers to call the credit card surcharge a “fee on financial service.”  These weasel words should be in the sights of regulators from January 1st, 2013 when new surcharging rules come into play courtesy of the Reserve Bank whereby credit card surcharges must reflect the true cost of providing the service. A typical credit card surcharge is 1-3%.
Shonky Winner: Liquipel
Background: The $99 nanotechnology coating applied to phones and tablets, which claims to “make your electronic device watersafe”, is a waste of money. Liquipel claims to waterproof devices by applying “an invisible coating to the inside and outside of your device, giving you optimal protection against damage caused by accidental contact with water”. In CHOICE tests, which included a shower, brief dunking and submersion, Liquipelled phones fared no better than untreated phones. In fact, one untreated phones used for comparison survived being submerged for 18 minutes.
Shonky Winner: Exit Mould/Coles Mould Remover
Background: Despite making claims like “kills ingrained mould” and “penetrates porous surfaces to attack mould at its source”, the ingredients in these so-called mould killers do no such thing. Mycologists (fungi experts) say the cleaners can’t penetrate porous surfaces such as grout where mould tends to live. Your bathroom might appear sparkly white post spray due to the bleach removing the colour, but experts say the root structure remains ingrained in the grout ready to sprout another day.

CHOICE wants to hear from consumers – which is the Shonkiest of the 2012 CHOICE Shonky winners?  

Access the full report on the 2012 Shonky Winners.