CHOICE’s annual Shonky Awards revealed the stinkers of 2020, with a major retailer’s credit card, floor cleaners, and a crappy air purifier among them.
The Shonky Awards aims to “shine a light on dodgy products or services” to inform consumers and encourage businesses to do better. Here are the absolute worst picks among the lot.
Harvey Norman and Latitude Finance
Among the biggest offender on this year’s list was Harvey Norman, which through its “toxic” partnership with Latitude Finance was setting customers up for “an eye-watering interest rate” of 22.74 per cent.
“Based on evidence gathered by some of our friends and allies in the consumer rights movement, Harvey Norman is a business with a knack for signing customers up for credit cards right there in the store without properly checking how suitable the card is for them,” CHOICE writes of the card.
“More often than not, the credit card in question can be traced back to one of Australia’s most predatory finance companies—Latitude Finance.”
A Latitude spokesman told Guardian Australia the company “undertakes a rigorous credit check and capacity assessment of every credit applicant, in full compliance with laws including responsible lending obligations”.
The spokesman added that Latitude fully owns the credit assessment and approval process, and that Harvey Norman has no involvement in the credit assessment process.
Meanwhile, the parent company of White Lady Funerals and Simplicity Funerals, InvoCare, gained a Shonky due to its failure to be upfront about pricing.
“With the exception of people living in NSW (where new legislation was introduced following a CHOICE investigation) and Victoria, it can be incredibly difficult to find out the itemised costs for a funeral package – which makes it hard to shop around for a good deal,” CHOICE writes.
Choice campaigner Amy Pereira alleged InvoCare is profiting from “keeping grieving families in the dark”.
In response, a spokesperson for InvoCare told the ABC funeral pricing was being rolled out nationally as part of the company’s “commitment to industry best practice”.
The spokesperson told the national broadcaster that InvoCare “strongly supports transparency in pricing and was the first group to meet new industry standards”.
Another addition to the Shonky Awards was the “pathetic” GreenTech PureAir 500, which made the list for the simple fact that it doesn’t work.
According to CHOICE, the air purifier was so ineffective that “tests couldn’t detect any difference in air quality”.
Another company worth avoiding, according to CHOICE, is Revitalife. The bed company earnt its Shonky due to an alleged sales tactic which saw the company use a ‘health survey’ to target people with health worries.
The health survey, however, is based on a single clinical trial—of six people.
A law firm acting on behalf of Revitalife told the ABC the company could produce “thousands of positive testimonials of satisfied customers”.
“Revitalife strongly denies any statement that implies it leads its customers into uninformed purchasing decisions,” it said.
In light of the Shonky award though, the company told Guardian Australia it would request any third-party companies it purchases leads from to “specifically ask customers if they wish to learn more about our beds during the call”.
It will also change the name of the “sleep survey” on its website to the “Revitalife sleep assessment”.
The next stinker on the list was floor cleaners, or as CHOICE described them, ‘flawed cleaners’.
While taking aim at the whole class of floor cleaners, CHOICE singled out Coles’ ‘Ultra Floor Cleaner’ and Bunnings’ ‘Long Life All Purpose Cleaner’ as having scores lower than the effectiveness of hot water in its testing.
Other floor cleaners either tied with water or performed slightly better than water.
However, a Coles spokeswoman told Guardian Australia that CHOICE’s testing had not taken into account the antibacterial action of the product, with claims to remove 99.9 per cent of germs.
While Bunnings’ director of merchandise and marketing, Phil Bishop, said that while it has not received any complaints about the products effectiveness, it would take the CHOICE results seriously.
Bunnings has reached out to its supplier to understand the results further, he told Guardian Australia.
To check out the full list of Shonky Awards winners for 2020, click here.
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