Qantas is the biggest brand to win a Shonky Award this year for its controversial flight credit scheme, months of lost baggage, long wait times for calls and canceled flights.
- Qantas is one of five companies to win a Shonky Award from Choice this year
- An online florist, quick loans for vet bills, a self-cooking pot and chicken nuggets also got a gong
- Choice chief executive Alan Kirkland says loopholes in consumer laws mean companies get away with bad behavior
The annual awards – which are handed out by consumer advocacy group Choice – name and shame brands that it says have failed to give Australian consumers a fair deal.
Steggles cookware, VetPay, Bloomex and Zega Digital are the other brands to have won the unenviable title of Shonky Award winner this year.
Choice chief executive Alan Kirkland said Qantas appeared to have deliberately gone out of their way to win the award.
“Qantas might call itself the Spirit of Australia, but we think Spirit of Disappointment is more appropriate. It does deserve a Shonky Award this year,” Mr Kirkland said.
“People are still paying high prices to travel with Qantas, but it’s clear from the complaints we’ve heard that they’re not getting a premium service.”
It is the latest blow to the airline’s reputation and comes after months of its customers taking to social media to complain about poor customer service, including leaving passengers stranded, flight delays and lost baggage.
In August, Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce apologized to customers and offered a series of benefits to members of his Frequent Flyers club in order to redeem himself.
Qantas’ flight credit program is currently under investigation by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
Consumer advocates said the carrier is making it difficult and confusing for customers to use flight credits for canceled trips, including forcing people to spend extra money and limiting available flights.
This is the third time Qantas has been awarded the unenviable title of winner of the Shonky Awards.
A Qantas spokeswoman said Choice prices were out of date as the airline’s performance had improved after several months of poor performance.
“Our customers have redeemed over $1 billion in COVID-related flight credits,” she said.
“The terms for these are the same, or better, than they were pre-COVID and we are actively encouraging our customers to use them.
“No one disputes the fact that we had issues earlier this year, and we apologize for that, but it’s disappointing that Choice hasn’t acknowledged the impact that COVID and the border closures have had on the entire aviation industry.”
Claims of bad loans, pots, dead flowers and fake sound nuggets
Other Shonky Award winners for 2022 went to VetPay, Steggles, Zega Digital cookware and online florist Bloomex.
“We have been particularly touched by the complaints we have received regarding the Bloomex online florist delivery service,” Kirkland said.
‘Because when you look closer they are advertising Google search terms for same day delivery to country towns all over Australia, undermining the local country, florists,’ he said.
“Yet when we tried to get people from these places to order flowers, in many cases they took the money but couldn’t deliver.
“In other cases, they arrived late. In other cases, they withered or decayed.”
VetPay is a quick loan financial product that advertises itself as affordable for pet owners who need to pay a veterinary bill.
Choice discovered that the company was actually charging customers a high interest rate of 18.4%, plus $2.50 on each repayment and an annual account maintenance fee of $49.
Poultry processor Steggles won a Shonky for marketing its product as boosted with vegetables when it only contains small amounts.
Choice found that the nuggets contained 11 grams of potatoes and three grams of cauliflower per 100-gram serving, less than one-fifth of a standard vegetable serving.
The consumer advocacy group describes Zega Digital cookware as a “self-cooking” smart pot that doesn’t actually cook.
When Choice tested the Zega Digital Pot using one of the brand’s chicken recipes, the meat was only partially cooked.
A Zega spokesperson said the company stands behind its product.
“In fact, we’ve received countless positive reviews from customers who love their Zega, and we’ve received many positive reviews from the media,” the spokesperson said.
“Unfortunately, the Choice reviewer in question declined our offer to discuss their issues over the phone. In our experience, the vast majority of youth issues can be resolved with a simple phone call.”
Stricter consumer laws are needed
Mr Kirkland said it was the advocacy group’s 17th Shonky Awards.
“We would love to have a day where we don’t have to hold these awards, but we’re not there yet,” he said.
“We continue to find companies that deserve them.
“I mean, these are the awards that no CEO wants to tell their board that they’ve received.”
Mr Kirkland said the awards called for business practices that go to the heart of Australia’s sense of fairness.
“We need tougher consumer laws in this country. And, in particular, what we need is a ban on unfair trade practices,” he said.
“If we have strict laws that say you have to treat customers fairly, we will see less of these practices and there will be [fewer] Shonky Awards in the future.”
VetPay, Bloomex and Steggles have been contacted for comment.