Overcharging on credit cards, over-the-top fees, bathroom products that don’t do what they claim, rip-off travel companies…Choice have named their worst offenders in their 2012 Shonky Awards. Who is the shonkiest of them all?
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. Choice have asked the ACCC to enforce compliance.
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.