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Worst products of 2018 named in Shonky Awards

The Commonwealth Bank’s “disgraceful” infiltration of primary schools, a toaster that can’t toast and the Marriott’s timeshare program are among Australia’s most “shonky” products of 2018.

They join sugar-heavy cereals and dubious remedies for pain and insomnia on consumer advocate group, CHOICE’s Shonky Awards today.

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“From cots that put our kids’ lives at risk, to a bank that buys its way into our schools and the toaster that leaves your bread warm and dry, there’s little doubt that this year’s winners are giving Australians a bad deal,” said CHOICE CEO, Alan Kirkland.

“Our seven 2018 winners follow a long tradition of highlighting why we need to hold companies to account for their bad behavior and why we need stronger laws to protect Australians.

1. Portable cots

CHOICE said the vast majority of portable cots pose a risk to infants of suffocation or entrapment. The group said it wants to see 4baby, Babyco, Babyhood, Baby Bjorn, Baby Solutions, Childcare, Elite Baby, Joie, Love N Care, Phil&Teds, Steelcraft, Target and Vee Bee products removed.

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2. KitchenAid

It’ll cost you $189, but this is a toaster that doesn’t even make toast, CHOICE said. “All it served up was dry, slightly warm bread. There are better ways to make a statement in your kitchen than buying this pricey paperweight,” the judges ruled.

3. Kellog’s Nutri-Grain

With 14.7g of sugar to 5.6g of protein, Nutri-Grain’s “To Go” range is far from a healthy option, CHOICE said.

4. Bioglan

It’s a “fantasy cure for insomnia”, the judges said, noting CHOICE analysis finding it contains little more than traces of the acting drug.

5. Magnetic therapy devices

Dick Wicks and BioMagnetic Sport both offer magnetic therapy devices promising to soothe pain. However, there isn’t any evidence to back up the claims, CHOICE said.

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6. Marriott Timeshare

Marriott Vacation Club International offers a timeshare deal as a cheap way to take holidays. The problem is, it requires consumers enter a 40-year contract that could cost up to half a million dollars, CHOICE calculations reveal.

7. Commonwealth Bank

“Disgraceful” and subversive sales practices coupled with “unchecked corporate greed?” That’s the Commonwealth Bank’s Dollarmite program, according to CHOICE. This product sees Aussie school-kids presented with Commonwealth Bank products while still studying.

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“The Dollarmites program uses slick marketing to target primary kids at school, turning them into long-term customers of a bad-value bank,” Kirkland said, noting recent reports the bank paid the Queensland education department handsomely for the opportunity.

“CHOICE has found that 35 per cent of Australian adults still have their first bank account and this brand attachment often means they take out credit cards, home loans or other products with the same bank,” he continued.

“46 per cent of people got their first account with the Commonwealth Bank, a strong testament to the power of school banking programs.”

Australians can no longer trust their banks to educate them about the financial system, the CEO of Consumer Action, Gerard Bank added.

“Instead we need to be teaching children to avoid the high costs and bad practices we keep seeing from the big banks.”

Schools could also explore independent financial literacy programs, the CEO of Financial Counselling Australia, Fiona Guthrie said. She suggested the Commonwealth Bank could sponsor brand-free initiatives.

Commonwealth Bank responds

The Commonwealth Bank School Banking program is “completely voluntary”, Commonwealth Bank executive general manager of retail banking, Mark Jones said today.

He said the program, which has been running for 87 years, has helped Aussie kids build good savings habits.

“As part of the School Banking program, students receive a savings account which they can deposit money into. In addition, Commonwealth Bank makes a payment to schools based on the number of participating students, and the frequency of their deposits,” he said.

“The purpose of these payments has always been to compensate for the administration of the program and the dedicated time of the volunteers. In most cases these payments generally go towards school sporting equipment or books in the school library.”

He said the program doesn’t promote Commonwealth Bank products, and said the facilitators are independent of the bank.

“We believe that teaching children about money is a critical part of helping young people develop the skills they need to do well in the future.”