Choice Shonky Awards: The Worst Australian Products Of 2015

Choice Shonky Awards: The Worst Australian Products Of 2015

Today, consumer watchdog Choice named and shamed the worst products and companies of the year at the 10th annual Shonky Awards. From “flushable” wet wipes that caused sewerage blockages to spontaneously combusting washing machines, these are the dodgiest Australian products of 2015.

For the past decade, consumer watchdog CHOICE has been doling out the dreaded “Shonky Awards” — an anti-prize for Australia’s worst products and services. Each Shonky recipient is either misleading, dangerous or of particularly bad value to consumers.

“Sadly the CHOICE Shonky Awards is in its 10th year and this latest crop of lemons deserves to be juiced,” Choice’s chief executive, Alan Kirkland said in a statement.

“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 claims that seem too good to be true.”

This year’s Shonky Awards received nominations from the public for over 400 products and services. Here are the top eight “winners” that Choice’s judging panel deemed to be particularly terrible.

Samsung white goods

Samsung came under fire this year for releasing a range of faulty top loader washing machines — and so did its customers. According to Choice, there were more than 224 incidents involving these dodgy models including 76 fires. The absence of a safety recall means there are still around 58,000 potential fire hazards in homes across Australia.

Samsung opted not to advertise the potentially fatal product error on TV — a decision that Choice found unacceptable: “We think it is time for Samsung to end the spin cycle and advertise on television before someone dies in the dark.”

Kleenex Kids’ Flushable Fresh Wipes

Choice Shonky Awards: The Worst Australian Products Of 2015

Kleenex scored its Shonky for a dubious range of “flushable” kids cleaning cloths. According to the marketing, the wipes are supposed to go down as smoothly as toilet paper.

In reality, the Kleenex flushable wipes caused numerous blockages, contributing to an estimated $15 million in wipe-related damage to sewerage systems. “Clearly, Kleenex flushable wipes aren’t sewer-friendly, and we think the “flushable” claim misleads consumers,” Choice said. You can find out more over at Choice’s Flushbusters website.


Choice Shonky Awards: The Worst Australian Products Of 2015

Coca-Cola has been slammed by Choice for its cynical attempts to raise awareness about the importance of healthy living. The company funded a front organisation dedicated to using “energy balance” to end obesity.

On the surface this almost seems commendable: a corporation taking responsibility for its sugary products. However, the resulting message exclusively promoted exercise with no mention of soft drink moderation. As Choice eloquently puts it: “We think funding an organisation that suggests we should keep drinking sugary drinks and just exercise more is a load of fizz.”

IKEA leather

Choice Shonky Awards: The Worst Australian Products Of 2015

Like most furniture outlets, IKEA’s website has a “leather sofas and armchairs” section. However, closer inspection reveals a range of decidedly non-leather materials such as polyester and polyurethane.

These couches were all masquerading as the real thing. “We think IKEA has real hide serving up plastic couches in the “leather” section of its website,” Choice quipped.


Choice Shonky Awards: The Worst Australian Products Of 2015

NAB made the shortlist for failing to pass the full 2.5% interest rate cut since 2011 and also raising rates for its “low” rate card customers from 12.99% to 13.99%. It was a mean cash grab from one of the most profitable industries in the country.

“With 1 in 5 Australians living off a credit card to get through to payday and many of us carrying a balance forward, consumers need NAB to act responsibly and pass on official interest rate cuts to credit card customers,” Choice admonished. “A very well-deserved Shonky for a low rate cash grab.”

The payday lending industry

Choice Shonky Awards: The Worst Australian Products Of 2015

“The fact is payday lenders prey on some of the most vulnerable consumers. The fees, extra charges and cripplingly high interest rates are the stuff of Hollywood horror films,” Choice explained about this Shonky award.

“In one recent case, Cash Convertors irresponsibly issued a pensioner 63 loans over six years. We think payday lenders are a school of predators, telling consumers to take out high interest loans so they can devour them in frenzy of debt.”


Choice Shonky Awards: The Worst Australian Products Of 2015

Nanosmart made the dubious claim that its laundry balls allow consumers to wash their clothes without any detergent. This is true in the same sense that water will “wash” your clothes without detergent.

“Forget the ‘bio-ceramic’ balls or ‘infrared rays’ and ‘negative ions’ that apparently reduce the size of the water molecules to better penetrate the fabric,” CHOICE explained. “[Our] tests found water alone did a better job.” To add insult to injury, the balls cost an eye-watering $50 a pop.

Arnott’s Tiny Teddies

Choice Shonky Awards: The Worst Australian Products Of 2015

Arnott’s was slapped over the head with a Shonky for creating its own “health” logo for Tiny Teddies that claims the snack meets “school canteen” guidelines. This gave the misleading impression that the sugar-laden biscuits are nutritious for children. The logo was even present on the 100s-and-1000s variety, which is classified as confectionary and not recommended in the national guidelines for canteens.

“We don’t think Arnott’s should be flogging confectionery to kids claiming it’s healthy,” Choice blasted.

You can check out the full 2015 report over at the official Shonky website which includes detailed information on how the nominations were judged.


    • I haven’t thought about a chocolate-coated Tiny Teddy in years and now I’m going to go to Woolworths after work and get a box.

      I hope you’re happy. (I’m certainly going to be.)

  • Payday lending – I’m of the opinion that this entire industry needs to die, and possibly have its more useful ‘safety net’ function be folded into the public sector.

    I’ve used Payday lending before, more than once. When you’re facing an unexpected expense that you need to pay in a hurry, you often don’t have ANY other options other than borrowing from family/friends (which holy hell you should avoid like the plague for the sake of your relationships).

    Fact is, you’re going to pay back damn near double what you borrowed, and you should only take on one of these heinous loans if the consequences of not having that money immediately are worse than paying double what you borrow. Got a $500 power bill past-due and you’re going to get cut off if you can’t make a payment? The payday loan will set you back at least $800 in total, but your late fee/reconnection fee plus your bill will only set you back around $600. And because of how vital the service is, utilities will ALWAYS negotiate payment plans.

    If there’s another way, you have to take it… but sometimes there isn’t always another way. Maybe you need to fly domestically to visit a dying loved one or make it to a funeral and you don’t have a spare $300-500 for short-notice plane ticket and accommodation and there’s no specials on. Payday lending really helps in situations like that, where there’s no-where else you can turn to on short notice. A more reasonable loan from a bank might be weeks away, but you need it tomorrow. (And realistically, why haven’t you planned better for emergencies? You should never have your credit card maxed if you have credit, and you should always sign up for an overdraft on your transaction account, so you aren’t forced to pay 90% interest rates.)

    Not everyone treats payday lending that way. Not everyone does that maths and realizes they may have to take the hit, or that they’re going to pay back more than they might possibly be able to afford. Those folks need to be saved from themselves instead of exploited.

    Safety nets are important, but if exploitation is the price we pay to have them, I think we have to look for a better way. As far as safety nets for bad situations go, I don’t think that should be something you entrust to the private sector. Not everyone has a familial safety net. Turning to corporations for that service is a very dubious form of safety.

    • The entire industry is unneeded and simply preys on our own laziness and greed. Get a credit card with a $500 limit and never ever use it until you would go to a payday lender. Or, open an ING Savings account and put in $10 every pay day and let it build.

  • I’m not certain what a spontaneously cumbusting washing machine does but it sure sounds like a lot of fun!

    • There’s an engineering fault with faulty insulation for some of the internal wiring. If water gets to it, it can short out and cause a fire. There’s a simple fix which involves wrapping a plastic bag around the faulty wiring, apparently.

      I actually have one of these machines and they’ve mailed me three separate letters about the problem, so I’m not sure that it’s all THAT bad with regard to Samsung not notifying people. One of these days I’ll actually check the machine and see if it needs to be serviced… and yes, that means I haven’t checked yet. :-/

  • Un-flushable wet wipes clog the system, as do billions of disposable nappies, also cause a stinking mess at local dumps on a continuous basis.

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