Harvey Norman, Coles and Bunnings clean up at the Shonkys

Each year a number of businesses engage in behaviour that can scarcely be described as being in the best interest of their customers, and each year the worst of these businesses are immortalised in the annual Shonky awards.

And in a year when consumer confidence has been through the ringer, giving customers anything less than stellar service is likely to end up frustrating a lot of people.

“Choice’s work is more important than ever in 2020 as Australians negotiate through the Covid-19 health crisis and tough economic times,” said Choice CEO Alan Kirkland.

“It’s fitting that the 2020 Shonkys uncover and call out practices from companies taking advantage of their customers.”

In the retail space, Harvey Norman was called out for its “toxic” partnership with Latitude Finance, which holds an interest rate of 22.74 per cent.

According to Choice, financial institutions are able to sell credit cards in stores without checking whether a person can afford to pay back the debt incurred, exploiting an exemption in financial regulations designed to stop exactly that from happening.

On this Harvey Norman Latitude Mastercard GO card, a purchase of $5000 at 22.74 per cent would leave someone making minimum repayments paying back $17,909 over 29 years, Kirkland said.

Choice’s Patrick Veyret said that when customers go in to Harvey Norman to purchase a TV they shouldn’t be pressured into high cost debt.

“Financial counselors and community legal centres all across Australia have seen the impact of Harvey Norman’s toxic alliance with Latitude Finance,” Veyret said.

“The cash rate is at a record low so there’s no justification for cards this expensive. Customers walk in for a television or toaster and walk out with crippling debt.”

Floor cleaning products sold at Coles and Bunnings were also found to be little more than floor perfume, Kirkland said, after testing revealed they actually performed worse than water at cleaning.

Specifically, Choice called out Coles Ultra floor cleaner and Long Life all purpose floor cleaner, giving each a 39 per cent rating, lower than the 40 per cent given to water. Most other cleaners tied with water, or landed at 41 per cent.

“We tested these floor cleaners in a scientific setting against typical soils that you’re likely to find in your own home,” said Choice testing expert Ash Iredale.

“We found that, despite how expensive they are compared with water, they didn’t perform any better… Just use a plain old bucket of hot water. Save your money.”