Qantas is the biggest brand to receive a Shonky Award this year for its controversial flight credit scheme, months of lost luggage, long waits on calls and canceled flights.
- Qantas is among five companies to receive a Choice Shonky Award this year
- An online flower shop, quick loans for vet bills, a self-boiling pot, and chicken nuggets also got a gong
- Choice chief executive Alan Kirkland said loopholes in consumer laws mean bad behavior companies get away with it
The annual awards, presented by consumer advocacy Choice, name and shame brands that have failed to give Australian consumers a fair deal.
Steggles, VetPay, Bloomex and Zega Digital Cookware are the other brands that have earned the unenviable title of Shonky Award Winner this year.
Choice chief executive Alan Kirkland said Qantas appeared to have deliberately done everything it could to earn the award.
“Qantas may call themselves ‘Spirit of Australia’ but we think ‘Spirit of Disappointment’ is more appropriate. It really deserved a Shonky Award this year,” Kirkland said.
“People are still paying premium fares to fly with Qantas, but from the complaints we’ve heard they are not getting premium service.”
It’s the airline’s latest reputational hit and comes after months of its customers taking to social media to complain about poor customer service, including stranded passengers, flight delays and lost luggage.
In August, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce apologized to customers and offered members of his Frequent Flyers Club a number of benefits in return.
The Qantas Flight Credit program is currently under investigation by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
Consumer advocates said the airline has made it difficult and confusing for its customers to use flight credit on canceled trips, including requiring them to spend extra money and capping available flights.
It is the third time Qantas has received the unenviable title of Shonky Awards winner.
A Qantas spokeswoman said the Choice Awards were outdated as the airline’s performance improved after several months of poor performance.
“Our customers have redeemed more than $1 billion in COVID-related flight credit,” she said.
“The conditions for this are the same or better than before COVID and we actively encourage our customers to take advantage of them.
“Nobody 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 of COVID and border closures on the broader airline industry.”
Claims of shady loans, pots, dead flowers and fake wholesome nuggets
The other 2022 Shonky Awards winners went to VetPay, Steggles, Zega Digital cookware and online florist Bloomex.
“We have been particularly impressed by the complaints we have received about online flower delivery service Bloomex,” said Mr Kirkland.
“Because if you look closely, they’re promoting Google search terms for same-day delivery to rural cities across Australia, undercutting local florists,” he said.
“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 came too late. In other cases they withered or decayed.”
VetPay is a quick loan finance product that markets itself as affordable for pet owners who have vet bills to pay.
Choice found that the company actually charges its customers a steep interest rate of 18.4 percent, plus $2.50 on each repayment and a $49 annual maintenance fee.
Poultry processor Steggles received a shonky for marketing its product as being vegetable-fortified when it contains only small amounts.
Choice found the nuggets contained 11 grams of potatoes and three grams of cauliflower per 100-gram serving, which is less than a fifth of a standard vegetable serving.
The consumer protection group describes Zega Digital Cookware as a “self-boiling” smart pot that doesn’t actually boil.
When Choice tested the Zega Digital Pot with one of the brand’s chicken recipes, the meat was only partially cooked.
A spokesman for Zega said the company stands by its product.
“Indeed, we’ve received countless positive reviews from customers who absolutely love their Zega and we’ve received numerous positive media reports,” the spokesman said.
“Unfortunately, the Choice reviewer in question declined our offer to discuss her issues over the phone. In our experience, the vast majority of teething problems can be resolved with a simple phone call.”
Stricter consumer protection laws needed
Mr. Kirkland said this was the advocacy group’s 17th Shonky award.
“We would like to have a day when we don’t have to hold these awards, but we’re not there yet,” he said.
“We keep finding companies that deserve them.
“I mean, those are the awards no CEO wants to tell their board that they’ve received.”
Mr Kirkland said the awards highlighted business practices that go to the heart of Australia’s sense of fairness.
“We need stricter consumer laws in this country. And what we need most of all is a ban on unfair trading practices,” he said.
“If we have strict laws that say you have to treat customers fairly, we will see fewer of these practices and they will exist [fewer] Shonky Awards in the future.”
VetPay, Bloomex and Steggles were contacted for comment.