How Australia’s ‘most trusted brands’ are also winners of Shonky awards

Supermarkets Coles and Woolworths have taken the top Shonky prize awarded by consumer advocate Choice.

Nov 02, 2023, updated Nov 02, 2023
Choice CEO Alan Kirkland with campaign director Rosie Thomas and editorial director Mark Serrels (photo supplied)

Choice CEO Alan Kirkland with campaign director Rosie Thomas and editorial director Mark Serrels (photo supplied)

Choice said the award was given to both retailers for taking advantage of the public during a cost-of-living crisis. The evidence for that claim was that the two corporations delivered record profits above $1 billion.

Online retailer Kogan also won an award for what Choice called tricking customers into a $99 sign-up while RentTech apps, which were now widely used in rental applications, won an award for data gouging. The Xbox mini fridge was awarded a prize for being a fridge that doesn’t make things colder.

Choice chief executive Alan Kirkland said the organisation would prefer not to award a Shonky, but the past year had delivered “terrible examples” of businesses doing the wrong thing and no shortage of nominees.

“Coles and Woolworths have each recorded over a billion dollars in profits this year and people are questioning whether that’s justified,” he said.

“In a nationally representative survey Choice conducted in September, more than 60 per cent of shoppers said they believe the big two are making a lot of money from the price hikes, and less than 20 per cent think Coles and Woolworths are doing enough to keep prices low.

“The same survey found 88 per cent of Australians are worried about the cost of food and groceries, up from 56 per cent in January 2021.

“While Coles and Woolies have been promoting how they’re supposedly helping with the cost of living, in the background they’ve been banking huge profits. At the same time, frequent changes in prices mean it’s hard to tell if you’re even getting a genuine discount. They are well and truly deserving of a Shonky award.”

Woolworths delivered a $1.6 billion profit and Coles $1.1 billion.

Despite the Shonky awards, Woolworths were ranked by Roy Morgan as the most trusted brand in Australia this year. Coles was number two.

The least trusted brands in the Roy Morgan list were Optus, Facebook, Telstra, News Corp and Amazon.

Choice said Kogan won its award for using deceptive website design to trick people into signing up for a $99 service. Choice carried out a secret shopper campaign at Kogan with 19 shoppers. Six accidentally signed up for Kogan First membership trial and none of them knew how much they had agreed to pay.

“The Xbox Mini Fridge is receiving a Shonky Award this year for failing to cool anything other than expectations. This ‘fridge’ took a lengthy 24 hours to bring eight drink cans to 21°C in our 32°C test chamber. For context, 21°C is warmer than tap water,” Kirkland said.

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“To make matters worse, the Xbox fridge’s energy consumption is so high that it uses around the same amount of electricity as a regular full-sized fridge, without actually cooling anything. It also pooled an alarming amount of moisture in our testing. The Xbox fridge’s many problems meant it was an obvious choice for a Shonky award.”

RentTech apps won their award for the way they demand “ridiculous amounts of data” such as bank statements, references and even photos of their children an pets in the application process of renting a property.

“There’s an increasing need to regulate these apps to ensure that tenants are protected from unfair and exploitative practices,” Kirkland said.

Another category, personal alarms, was given an award for not working.

Choice tested the alarms, which are often used by the elderly to alert carers of an accident or fall, and found that they were “unreliable at best”. Often they didn’t work.





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