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Shonky Awards handed to Medibank health insurance and AMP super 'lemons'

Brisbane Times logo Brisbane Times 9/10/2019 Jenny Noyes
a man standing in front of a store: Medibank's 'basic' cover health insurance is more expensive than the cheapest 'bronze' policies offered by other insurers. © Choice Medibank's 'basic' cover health insurance is more expensive than the cheapest 'bronze' policies offered by other insurers.

Medibank Private's "rip-off" basic health cover has "won" the insurer a gong at this year's annual Shonky Awards from consumer group Choice.

The health insurer is joined by embattled superannuation provider AMP, along with "serial offender" electronics company Kogan, a dodgy IKEA fridge, a sugary cereal, and the entire pet insurance industry, in being branded a "lemon" by the group on Thursday.

Choice chief executive Alan Kirkland said the awards this year highlight "businesses and industries who have ripped off, misled and treated Australians like cash cows to be exploited".

With "junk" accident and ambulance cover that is more expensive than the cheapest bronze policy in every state and territory but Queensland, Medibank "deserves a Shonky for failing at the basics - simple and affordable health insurance," Mr Kirkland said.

The dubious honour comes two days after Medibank called on the federal government for assistance to address the exodus from private health insurance – by allowing insurers to charge higher premiums for people with chronic illnesses and subsidising the difference.

Mr Kirkland said 2019 is the first year that private health insurance has topped the list of financial worries in Choice's regular national surveys "and it’s easy to see why".

He said the government's reform of the private health insurance system, in which funds must sort their cover into categories of gold, silver, bronze and basic, was "meant to make things simpler" but "has turned into a mess thanks to rip-offs like those from Medibank".

Embattled wealth manager AMP was also branded a "lemon" by Choice for causing "ruined retirements".

Partnering with Super Consumers Australia, Choice found AMP holds the largest number of what it calls "zombie accounts" – inactive accounts where people's savings are eaten away by fees and insurance – of any super fund.

Mr Kirkland said AMP, which is currently facing a class action from a million customers alleging they were overcharged fees, deserved the strong criticism it received during the Royal Commission into banking.

"Managing people’s retirement funds isn’t your average business - there’s a higher moral standard to meet when it comes to people’s security and comfort in older age, and AMP have failed this standard," he said.

Along with Medibank's basic health insurance and AMP's superannuation, Choice awarded a Shonky to the entire pet insurance industry, which Mr Kirkland described as "one of this country's worst value insurance products".

a refrigerator with the door open: Choice says Ikea's Nedkyld fridge is one of the worst fridges they've ever tested. © Choice Choice says Ikea's Nedkyld fridge is one of the worst fridges they've ever tested.

After reviewing 86 pet insurance policies, Choice found zero it would recommend to pet owners.

"Riddled with exclusions and technicalities ... It relies on emotionally manipulating your love of your pet to sell you worthless insurance."

Choice also handed a Shonky to a sugary cereal, Freedom Foods' XO Crunch, which displays a health star rating of four stars despite containing 22.2 per cent sugar. Mr Kirkland said the case "shows why the food industry needs to be kicked out of the room when it comes to Health Star Ratings," which are currently under review.

a person and a dog sitting in front of a building: Choice says pet insurance is one of Australia's worst value insurance products. © Choice Choice says pet insurance is one of Australia's worst value insurance products.

"The food industry has gamed the Health Star system to make a big bag of sugar look like a healthy choice for your kids - and that’s a disgrace," he said.

A Shonky was also awarded to IKEA's Nedkyld fridge – "one of the worst fridges we've ever tested" – which failed at both keeping food cold and at living up to its energy star rating.

Electronics brand Kogan got a Shonky for being a complaint magnet, attracting more than 300 complaints to NSW Fair Trading in the first half of the year.

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