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Substantiation … it can’t come soon enough!

Recently I’ve dealt with a few questions about products people think we should test. They’re the sort of products we won’t test, because our testing budget (which comes from our member subscriptions) is too valuable to waste on things we know can’t do what they claim. But, like a bad smell, these products keep coming back – along with the questions.

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Laundry balls or laundry discs that clean clothes without detergent. Dishwasher balls/discs – ditto. Electronic pest repellers, ionic pest repellers, electromagnetic pest repellers, combos of all three. Devices to clip on to (or connect into) your car fuel line that promise to make your car run better, use less fuel, save the planet etc. Plug a clever product into your wall socket, smooth out your electricity and cut your power bill. Or worse, pay an electrician to connect it to your hot water cylinder. Now, just in, the “digital pulse generator” that makes your battery last up to three times longer. Send just $57.50 to Australia … yeah right.

But at last riding into town is the Minister of Consumer Affairs with an update to the Fair Trading Act on his hip – although he’s been moving at a slow trot. From June, businesses won’t be able to make claims about a product or service if they don’t have evidence or reasonable grounds for making those claims. The Commerce Commission can take them to court if they can’t put up their evidence. Companies found in breach of the Act can now be fined up to $600,000 per offence. Sadly, the law does not allow more immediate action like instant fines.

We hope it’s going to make life easier for us (that’s you out in the wild west of the market and us here at Consumer), and harder for the snake-oil sellers. We won’t be shy in pointing out to these merchants that they need to prove their claims or they could face court action.

Have you bought something like this that you’ve regretted? Or worse, tried and failed to get your money back, even though that was guaranteed? Many of us have been caught, so you’re in good company – let us know your story.

About the author:

Hamish Wilson has been working for Consumer forever. Well, at least longer than most of our staff can remember! He's tested old technology such as video recorders along with a steady stream of the latest washing machines, dishwashers, fridges, TVs and DVD recorders.

It's the variety that keeps him here. There's always new technology to explore, or even to go exploring with. It can be entertaining following directions from car navigation systems through dead end streets.