From junk insurance rorts to a fridge that can’t keep food cold, consumer advocate Choice has announced the winners of the 14th Shonky awards.
The Oscars of dodgy consumer products, the Shonkys recognise the worst of the worst when it comes to products that deceive, disappoint, and sometimes even endanger consumers.
For the companies behind the products a Shonky is a gong they’d rather ignore, but it comes with a stigma that’s difficult to dispel.
Last year’s Shonky awards went to Commonwealth Bank, Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain, KitchenAid, Bioglan, Marriott Timeshare, magnetic therapy devices, and portable cots.
On Thursday, Choice awarded Shonkys to Kogan, Medibank, Ikea, Freedom Foods, AMP superannuation and pet insurance.
Kogan: For dodgy customer care
‘The customer is king’ might be a retail truism, but according to Choice, it’s not a phrase that rings true at online shopping site Kogan.
In the first half of the year, consumers in New South Wales flooded the state’s complaints register with 300 complaints about the site founded by rich-lister Ruslan Kogan.
“Kogan is a serial offender when it comes to consumer rights,” Choice chief executive Alan Kirkland said.
The company must simplify its refunds, repairs, and replacements processes to “community expectations and the law”, Mr Kirkland said.
“Kogan needs to improve its customer service and stop beating around the bush when its products are defective,” he said.
Medibank ‘Basic’ Cover health insurance: For failing at the ‘basics’
Australia’s ailing private health insurance system has come under increased scrutiny this year, with more and more people – especially the young – abandoning the pricey system.
Earlier this year the federal government attempted to stem the bleeding with the introduction of new Basic, Bronze, Silver and Gold private hospital cover tiers.
However, rip-offs are still common, Choice warns, pointing to Medibank’s ‘Basic’ Cover as a prime example.
Medibank’s ‘Basic’ cover is more expensive than the cheapest Bronze options in NSW, ACT, NT, SA, WA and Tasmania, Choice found.
“2019 is the first year that private health insurance has topped the list of financial worries in Choice’s regular national surveys and it’s easy to see why,” Mr Kirkland said.
“A new system that was meant to make things simpler has turned into a mess, thanks to rip-offs like those from Medibank.”
Mr Kirkland encouraged Australians to “escape the industry marketing” and visit DoINeedHealthInsurance.com.au “to see if they even need these junk policies at all”.
IKEA Nedkyld Fridge: For failing energy tests and being bad at its one job
If you’re looking for a new fridge, Ikea’s Nedkyld probably isn’t it.
Described by Choice as one of the worst fridges ever tested, the Nedkyld failed Choice’s energy test and scored just 35 per cent for food freshness.
“Not only is it terrible at keeping your food cold, when Choice tested the Nedkyld’s energy use against its star rating, it failed the test,” Mr Kirkland said.
It’s hard to understand how this fridge is still on sale in Ikea stores, especially with a misleading energy label.”
AMP Superannuation: For ruined retirements
The Banking Royal Commission left AMP’s reputation in shreds, and Choice has rammed the message home, awarding the disgraced firm a Shonky for having more than one million “zombie” super accounts “eating away retirements”.
“If your superannuation is with AMP, chances are you’ve had your retirement leeched off to fund its executives’ lifestyles,” Mr Kirkland said.
“Managing people’s retirement funds isn’t your average business – there’s a higher moral standard to meet when it comes to people’s security and comfort in older age, and AMP have failed this standard.”
Freedom Foods XO Crunch: For telling us a bag of sugar is healthy
Freedom Foods bills its XO Crunch cereal as a “fun and nutritious way to start your kids’ day”, despite the fact that 22.2 per cent of it is sugar.
Mr Kirkland slammed Freedom Foods for “health washing and marketing a big bag of sugar towards our kids”.
“Every year it seems there’s a new shonk in the food industry trying to pass off junk as healthy,” Mr Kirkland said.
The fact that Freedom Foods “proudly displays 4 health stars on this bag of sugar” shows why the food industry “needs to be kicked out of room when it comes to Health Star Ratings”, he said.
“The food industry has gamed the Health Star system to make a big bag of sugar look like a healthy choice for your kids – and that’s a disgrace,” Mr Kirkland said.
Pet insurance: For bad insurance riddled with exclusions
Choice reviewed 86 pet insurance policies, and recommends none of them.
“Pet insurance is the insurance a business sells when it wants to make money without providing any service at all,” Mr Kirkland said.
“Riddled with exclusions and technicalities, pet insurance is one of this country’s worst-value insurance products.
“It relies on emotionally manipulating your love of your pet to sell you worthless insurance.”