It’s that time of year when we reflect on how well businesses have measured up to consumer expectations or, more importantly, which businesses have not! For your edification, here’s my list of 10 businesses or industries that need to try harder.

  1. Harvey Norman: Runs a sale billed as the biggest retail sale ever, but botches it by advertising lounge suites at extremely low prices. Refuses to honour the deals but offers $100 vouchers. Refuses to front the public on it. Regularly near the bottom of the heap for after-sales service in our member surveys.

  2. Jetstar: Steadfastly refuses to stop pre-ticking insurance, seating and luggage in its online booking system. These pre-ticked boxes risk misleading consumers into paying for services they don’t want. Jetstar is being investigated by the Commerce Commission. We say ditch the ticks.

  3. Flushable wipes manufacturers: 11 wipes claiming to be flushable did not break down readily in a Consumer test. City councils report an increase in wastewater blockages linked to flushable wipes, but the industry has its head stuck in the S-bend. Manufacturers should not claim their products are flushable when in the real world they are not.

  4. Soft drink industry: Where to start? How about sports drinks? The main carbohydrates and electrolytes in these drinks are plain-old sugar and sodium. They are a drink created for a problem that doesn’t exist – unless you are a high-performance athlete. Downing one bottle of Powerade will set you back 90 percent of your recommended daily sugar consumption – it contains 11tsp of sugar. Now the industry wants to make health claims on electrolyte drinks. Health experts say these drinks are detrimental to the health of children and adults. Water during and after exercise is adequate.

  5. Food labelling: A health star rating system is being rolled out so consumers can compare packaged foods and look for healthier options. But it’s voluntary and the stars aren’t yet casting much light in supermarket aisles.

  6. Cosmetic industry: A list like this wouldn’t be complete without it! Our latest test of shampoos supposedly designed to stop colour fading from dyed hair found they were no better than using ordinary shampoo. In fact, the best way to preserve your coloured do is by washing with water. Despite the claims the shampoos “protected colour”, “revitalised colour”, or provided up to “50% more shine”, they didn’t.

  7. Insurance industry: A recent conference was themed being “consumer-centric”. However, this is the same industry which (sneakily we believe) achieved an exemption from new consumer laws that stop standard form contracts from containing unfair contract terms.

  8. Supermarkets: To beat off the threat of regulation, supermarkets have voluntarily agreed to display unit pricing – they show the price per unit of measure so you can see if a big box of cereal is better value than a small one. However, the prices aren’t always there or when they are they are barely big enough to read. Supermarkets have also taken to using different measures that defeat the purpose of unit pricing!

  9. Supplements industry: Failure to clamp down on this industry has allowed manufacturers and retailers to make health claims which outstrip the science. We say don’t rely on label claims, get advice from a medical professional.

  10. Sunbed industry: Years of mystery-shopping this industry has not changed our view. There is routine lack of compliance with voluntary guidelines and sunbeds should be banned. The risk of melanoma is simply not worth it.

About the author:

Sue Chetwin has been our Chief Executive since April 2007 after more than 25 years in print journalism. She was formerly the Editor of Sunday News, Sunday Star Times and the Herald on Sunday. She says there are strong parallels between consumer advocacy and journalism.

Sue oversees all of Consumer’s operations and is also the public face of the organisation. Sue is a director of the Banking Ombudsman Scheme, an alternate on the Electricity and Gas Complaints Commission and a member of the Electricity Authority Retail Advisory group.