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16 October 2014

Named and shamed: ‘shonkiest’ companies revealed

Tim Tams, Thermomix and banks slammed in CHOICE’s annual Shonky Awards in Sydney.

Commonwealth Bank has been slammed for its poor response and “slick PR campaign” used to apologise to its customers for almost a decade of dodgy financial advice at Australian consumer advocate CHOICE’s annual Shonky Awards.
“We expect a lot more from a big-four bank than a slick YouTube video,” says CHOICE chief executive Alan Kirkland.

“CBA presided over one of the worst financial advice disasters in Australian history. While this stretched from at least 2003 to 2012, it was not until July 2014 that the CBA bothered to make any apology.
“And at the very same time as making that apology, the CBA was actively lobbying the parliament to remove financial advice protections for consumers.”
In July CBA faced a senate inquiry over fraud and misconduct by its financial planners.

CHOICE came out swinging at CBA and some of Australia’s biggest companies in its annual name and shame awards show in Sydney on Tuesday.
The awards, which received 1041 nominations from consumers, highlight products and services which are “sneaky, slippery, unscrupulous and sometimes unsafe”.
The seven winners of this year’s Shonky Awards are:

Arnott’s Tim Tam (Peanut Butter Flavour)

Peanut Butter Tim Tams

Yes! The “most requested flavour ever” Peanut Butter Tim Tams had become reality. Or so consumers thought. Not only were there no peanuts in the “peanut butter flavour” biscuits (there was oddly paprika), Arnott’s also cut two biscuits from the pack making it even worse value for money.



The mighty mixer stirred up a wicked batch of controversy when it launched its first new model in seven years without notifying its customers of its imminent release. Some of these fans had bought the old model just days before the launch.

A giant wave of vitriol hit the company, with shocked and hurt devotees going so far as to create a change.org petition calling for the company to apologise. Of the 1041 nominations, 530 were for Thermomix – the most nominated product in shonky history.
As an extra gong, CHOICE referrred Thermomix to the ACCC.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia

Commonwealth Bank sign on a corner at traffic lights

“Which bank? CONBANK,” says CHOICE in regard to Australia’s biggest bank’s response to one of the worst financial planning failures in the country’s history. CHOICE says the way the bank dealt with the scandal was “questionable at best”.
CHOICE used the awards to reiterate its calls for increased consumer protection. It told a Government Committee on Tuesday that key protections lost in the wind back of Future of Financial Advice protections must be reinstated.
“Raising education standards in the financial advice industry without addressing conflicts of interest will only lead to better educated advisers taking advantage of consumers,” CHOICE CEO Alan Kirkland said.
“FoFA regulation and legislation must be amended to establish a clear, professional obligation for advisers to act in their clients’ best interests with no exceptions. We also need to rule out all kinds of conflicted payments like commissions for insurance products and bonuses for bank staff.

“Until we fix FoFA, the CBA’s of the world will be able to continue their shonky behaviour.”



Encouraging kids to save is always a good thing right? Well. CHOICE says BankWest has shown kids why banks can’t be trusted. It offers kids a 12-month teaser rate of 5.75 per cent on its BankWest Kids’ Bonus Saver account. The catch is that after the year ends, it moves all but $1 into a low interest account paying just one per cent for amounts below $3000. Any kid daring enough to access their own cash is hit by a rate of 0.01 per cent in the month they make the withdrawal.
“We think banks who raid kids’ piggybanks should be rolled in lemon-scented mud,” says CHOICE.

Kmart Swimwear

Kmart store department store

Transparent swimwear is mostly confined to being the stuff of nightmares. Not so for Kmart’s range of swimwear. CHOICE says even if you follow its “hopeless warning” to avoid “excessive contact” with suntan lotions, oils, rough surfaces, heated pools and spas treated with harsh chemicals you’ll still risk running to the change rooms for appropriate cover. “Sheer cheek” and un-Australian, says CHOICE of the department store.

Amazon Kindle

Amazon Paperwhite Kindle

The new Amazon Paperwhite e-reader has an almost unbelievable eight weeks of battery life. Almost that is, until you read the fine print. CHOICE zoomed in to reveal that the audacious marketing spin actually meant that “eight weeks” is only if you use the device for a maximum of 30 minutes per day. The real battery life is 28 hours. CHOICE referred the company to the ACCC.

S26 Gold Toddler and Junior

Child drinking milk

All kids need nutritional milk, right? Definitely, if you believe the spin on the S-26 Gold Toddler and Junior powdered milk. The problem, says CHOICE, is that experts advise toddler and junior milks aren’t needed for healthy kids over the age of one. Yes, that’s right, not needed. CHOICE has given the company a shonky for “milking parental guilt”.