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article imageOp-Ed: Choice Shonky Awards — Consume at your own risk

By Paul Wallis     Oct 25, 2011 in Business
Sydney - “Shonk” is an Australian word meaning dud, ripoff, very low quality or something that doesn’t work properly. Choice is Australia’s peak consumer advocacy group, highly respected for its regular exposure of consumer ripoffs and dangerous products.
This year’s Shonky Awards are a cornucopia of consumer problems. The prize went to the insurance industry for flood policies which were to say the least vague, and very un-vaguely resulted in a lot of the victims of the Queensland floods not having coverage when they thought they did. Legislation is now in the pipeline to clear this hideous mess up, but the results have been devastating for some people.
The Smurfberries smartphone app provides another fun way for your kids to spend hundreds of dollars online. The app is free, but it seems they do make up their costs somehow. You can wince and laugh grimly when you consider the possible uses of $900 worth of Smurfberries, particularly when inserted into the appropriate places of people who apparently don’t see any problem with young kids buying these things. The Smurf copyright owners should take a long hard look at this, because their brand is likely to be targeted by consumer groups and possibly class actions.
A true classic for motorists, the Chinese hatchback Chery 1 has a roof rack with a little sticker telling drivers not to use it. It’s only there for appearance. On a hatchback? Why not go for braces instead?
Slimming underwear, steeped in green tea, peaches and coffee was another Choice pick. You could in fact lose weight if wasps were attracted to the underwear and the coffee would help you run faster if you can eat through your pelvis, but it’s a bit hard to follow the logic otherwise. Bullets will make you lose weight too, but they’re not supposed to be taken internally.
Then there’s Sensaslim, a great product designed to help you lose weight in your sleep. Except it doesn’t work.
Says Choice campaigns director Christopher Zinn:
"The other issue here is a product people might have heard called SensaSlim, which is a spray you put on your tongue said to lose weight as you sleep.
"It's been subject to ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) action. They tried to take action against our representatives legally, to shut down the Therapeutic Goods Association who are meant to be the regulators in this area. It's been a whole process of shonkydom.
I used to work for the consumer regulators. This one is new, even to me. Imagine a manufacturer which thinks the solution to laws is to get rid of the regulators. Now imagine one that doesn’t know that any product on the Australian market is subject to laws regarding its performance. There’s no obstacle to civil legal action, with or without consumer groups and regulators. You need the education of a 2 day old kitten to understand that, which puts Mr. Zinn’s comments in another perspective.
Arguably worse are the “bling dummies”, with shiny things on them that are great choking hazards. Nothing like toddlers having that early chance to be drop-dead gorgeous. Great work, designers, did you get your qualifications from Kelloggs or Sanitarium?
The good news for kids, such as it is, is that the kid-slicing shrapnel factories trying to pass themselves off as toys seem to be in decline, and haven’t been mentioned in this year’s Shonky Awards. What’s the matter, guys? Too busy researching new death traps to keep up the great record?
The most extraordinary claims for product performance, however, were for quail eggs. According to Choice, quail eggs are claimed to cure:
• High cholesterol
• Abnormal blood pressure
• Tuberculosis
• Type 1 diabetes
• Chernobyl-style excessive radiation
• Kidney stones
• Excess weight
• Hair loss
• Wrinkles
• Male potency issues … the list goes on.
If so, quails would have taken over the world by now. They’d be able to buy the planet outright with pocket change.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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