Consumer advocate CHOICE today handed out its annual 'Shonky Awards', highlighting products that are particularly bad value. As well as providing a useful shortlist of products you should never buy, the awards also highlight some important general principles you should apply to every purchase you make. Here are five to remember.
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5. Check carefully for credit card surcharges
Cabcharge scored a Shonky for charging 10 per cent if you use a credit card to pay for your taxi trip home. That's a particularly extreme fee, but credit card surcharges aren't uncommon; you'll find them everywhere from airlines to hotels. The easiest way to avoid them? Pay cash where possible. That's not always practical when booking an overseas hotel, but it's eminently possible with a taxi.
4. Don't trust mould remover
CHOICE's research suggests that two mould removers on the market — Exit Mould and Coles Ultra Mould Remover — do not "kill ingrained mould" as they claim on their packaging. All they do is bleach it so you can't see it, and the bleach can actually erode grout and make them more porous. Note that this is true both of a major brand name and a supermarket house brand, reaffirming that you can't automatically assume the "branded" product is more effective.
3. Ticket companies will rip you off
We've been complaining about this recently ourselves: concert and event tickets will always attract a surcharge, no matter what the delivery mechanism. It's particularly offensive when you're charged for a ticket you print yourself, and then get slugged with credit card surcharges (see point #5) as well. The biggest suck of all? Most venues have exclusive agreements with a single ticket provider, so there's no way to avoid most of these fees, even if you pay cash. Ticketmaster and Ticketek (joint recipients of a Shonky) should be ashamed of themselves, but presumably both are too bust counting the cash.
2. Treat efficiency ratings with caution
Samsung's SW70SP top loading washing machine claims a four-star water efficiency rating, but proved to be the least efficient washing machine CHOICE had ever seen. It received a 0 per cent water efficiency score from CHOICE after using 224 litres of water for a 3.5 kilogram load of clothing. The reason for the discrepancy? Manufacturers will typically submit the scores from their most abstemious mode for water (and electricity) efficiency, but most people will choose the auto-sensing mode. The lesson? Research major appliance buys carefully, and don't just go on the manufacturer-supplied labelling.
1. Don't buy travel from Jetset Travelworld, Harvey World Travel or Best Flights
OK, that's a particularly specific recommendation, but it's the one that stood out for us in this year's Shonky award winners. Many credit card providers offer a chargeback mechanism where you can get money refunded if you pay for something and it isn't delivered. These three travel companies (all owned by the Jetset Travelworld Group) all include a clause in their fine print where buyers waive their right to chargeback for anything. So if you buy a cruise through Jetset and the operator goes bankrupt, you won't be able to get chargeback. Why on earth would you spend a cent with a company that deliberately asks you to reduce your consumer rights? You should read the fine print for any deal, especially with a pricey product like travel, but in the case of these three, save yourself the trouble and shop elsewhere in the first place.
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