- Consumer advocacy group Choice announced the winners of its annual Shonky Awards, where companies are called out for taking advantage of customers.
- This year, Harvey Norman and the parent company of White Lady Funerals made it onto the list.
- Harvey Norman took an award for partnering with Latitude Financial to launch a credit card with one of the highest interest rates in the country.
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The 2020 Shonky Award winners have been announced.
Consumer group Choice has announced the winners of its 15th annual Shonky Awards, which recognise companies found to be taking advantage of customers.
“Whether it’s complex financial products designed to trap people in debt or home appliances that fail in our lab testing, the Choice Shonkys are here to help you avoid buying a dud,” Choice CEO Alan Kirkland said in a statement.
This year, Harvey Norman, InvoCare Funerals and Revitalife were among the companies awarded a Shonky.
Here are the Shonky Award winners and why they took the accolade:
InvoCare Funerals, the parent company of White Lady Funerals, took an award this year for not being upfront about their prices to customers outside of New South Wales.
“When the NSW government introduced laws requiring funeral companies to disclose their prices, InvoCare should have done the right thing and made prices available to all Australians,” Kirkland said.
“Instead, it has cynically left the rest of the country in the dark. InvoCare provides prices for NSW and ACT funerals on its website but doesn’t provide grieving people in other states with the same information.”
Electronics retailer Harvey Norman got a Shonky for teaming up with Latitude Finance to launch a credit card with extremely high interest rates. While finance companies are required by law to do checks and make sure customers aren’t pressured into exploitative credit services, businesses have had some exemptions.
“The banking royal commission uncovered many behaviours that were hurting people,” Kirkland said. “This included businesses exploiting an exemption from credit laws to sell credit cards in stores, without checking whether the person can afford to repay the debt.”
He added that Harvey Norman and Latitude Finance partnered up “to push a credit card with an eye-watering interest rate of 22.74%”.
“On this Harvey Norman Latitude Mastercard GO card, a purchase of $5,000 at 22.74% would leave someone making the minimum repayments paying back $17,909 over 29 years,” Kirkland said. “With Latitude, Harvey Norman is selling one of the most expensive credit cards on the market and it needs to end now.”
Harvey Norman isn’t involved in the credit assessment check, it is Latitude that completely handles the credit assessment and approval process.
A Latitude Financial Services spokesperson told Business Insider Australia via email, “Latitude Go and Latitude Gem enable customers to shop interest free for up to 60 months – or five years – on promotional offers at participating retailers.
“The vast majority of customers who purchase interest free using these cards pay off what they owe within the promotional period and therefore pay no interest whatsoever.”
The spokesperson added that Latitude “undertakes a rigorous credit check and capacity assessment of every credit applicant, in full compliance with laws including responsible lending obligations”.
“Credit is never issued without first determining the creditworthiness of applicants and ensuring borrowers have the capacity to repay. Our delinquency rates are comparable to the major banks and better than many smaller lenders, demonstrating that the customers Latitude is approving are credit worthy.”
Greentech’s Pure Air 500 air purifiers came last in Choice’s lab tests. While purifiers have been promoted as a solution against bushfire smoke and viruses (in light of COVID-19), Choice found that they Greentech’s air purifier “performed abysmally”.
“In fact, our labs could barely find any difference in the quality of air when they tested the Greentech purifier,” Kirkland said.
Floor cleaners from Coles and Bunnings
After testing some of the brands of floor cleaners at Coles and Bunnings, Choice awarded them a Shonky for being barely able do the job.
“In our lab tests some brands sold at retailers like Coles and Bunnings performed worse than water,” Kirkland said. “In fact, our experts say floor cleaners are basically ‘floor perfume’. They won’t do much more than make your floor smell nice.”
Rounding out the list is Revitalife and the sales tactics it uses. Choice particularly called out its ‘health survey’ which targeted people with health concerns.
“This company promises to help customers with their health needs but then sells them expensive beds with dubious health claims,” Kirkland said. “Revitalife makes huge claims about the benefits of their beds based on a single clinical trial of six people. This just isn’t good enough.”
Last year, Ikea got a Shonky for its Nedkyld fridge, which failed Choice’s energy test and Kogan was called out for its “dodgy customer care”.