The 8 worst products and services in 2013, presented by CHOICE

Qantas, Dairy Farmers, Energy Australia and Kleenex were among the eight companies named and shamed at CHOICE’s annual Shonky Awards in Sydney today.

“The CHOICE Shonky Awards shine a spotlight on products and services that are sneaky, slippery, unscrupulous and sometimes unsafe. The risk of receiving an infamous Shonky encourages businesses to lift their game and put consumers first,” says CHOICE chief executive, Alan Kirkland.
“This year we had a record 439 Shonky nominations from across Australia, which highlights the level of consumer concern about shonky products and services.”
This year’s Shonky Award winners are:
•Dairy Farmers Oats Express Liquid Breakfast, Banana and Honey
This product, with pictures of whole oats, banana slices and a honey dipper on the pack, claims to be a smooth “blend of milk, oat fibre and real banana”. The ingredients panel tells a different story – actually banana extract and it appears to be missing the honey!
•Nuk Starlight Silicone Orthodontic Soother (0-6 months)
Back in 2006, the Nuk Starlight Silicone Soother (0-6 months) took out a Shonky for failing to meet the voluntary Australian Standard. So imagine our astonishment when we tested dummies again this year and found the Nuk Starlight Silicone Orthodontic Soother (0-6 months) failed the mandatory standard – for exactly the same reason! When we tested the dummy in accordance with the standard, the shield passed through the opening in the test template (used to simulate the dummy passing through a baby’s mouth). The manufacturer can point to its own testing from reputable overseas laboratories to show compliance with the standard, but CHOICE does not agree with those findings.
•Credit Repair Australia
For charging a non-refundable upfront fee of $990 to consumers for a service that fails to live up to its name. In most cases, default listings and other information about your credit history can’t be removed from a report unless it is proven to be wrong. This company boasts of having dealt with over 150,000 consumers in the last 10 years – and we reckon that most of them would have been better off not paying for this shonky service.
With a supposedly ‘free range’ stocking density of 20,000 birds per hectare – which is over 13 times higher than the national model code definition of 1500 birds per hectare – a premium price tag and only 10 eggs in a pack, we think Ecoeggs offer very poor value under the cover of green-washing. CHOICE was also left wondering – what, exactly, is “eco” about this product?
•Kleenex Mansize Tissues
Kleenex has been shouting about their Mansize tissues – “big tissue, small box” – but CHOICE found they are now 14% smaller, which is nothing to sneeze at. We think Kleenex should have come clean about their shrinking Mansize tissue.
•Energy Australia
For failing to disclose how much energy bills would increase by before billing consumers. Not only did Energy Australia use the back of a marketing flyer for solar panels to tell consumers that prices were going up – they did it after the event and still failed to say how much the increase was.  With energy bills the number one cost-of-living concern for Australian consumers, this is downright shonky.
With the launch of SimCity earlier this year, gaming business EA charged Australian consumers $2.48 a minute on the phone to seek help about the game after a number of server connection issues were found. Consumers should not have to pay to exercise their basic warranty rights. With US consumers given access to the complaint line for free, CHOICE believes this is another example of the “Australia tax” that forces us to pay more.
•Qantas Frequent Flyer Toolbar
This is a case of big data, small rewards – and why does an airline want to know everything you search for on the internet, anyway? The Qantas Frequent Flyer Toolbar monitors your internet searches and offers very poor value in return. Limiting the points you can earn to 150 per month, it would take almost 8 years of searching to earn enough points for a one-way flight from Sydney to Melbourne. One year would get you from Sydney to Picton.
While not every Shonky Award winner may be breaking laws or breaching regulations, CHOICE believes that consumers deserve better products and services, and the 2013 lemons are ripe for the picking.
“We hope the Shonkys encourage consumers to look critically at the goods and services they use, and question poor service, hidden costs, and the fine print beneath claims that seem too good to be true,” says Mr Kirkland.
CHOICE wants to hear from consumers – which is the Shonkiest of the 2013 CHOICE Shonky winners? Vote on their 2013 Shonkys People’s Choice Awards here:
Access the full report on the 2013 Shonky Winners.