Choice (Australian consumer organisation)

  (Redirected from Choice (Australian magazine))

Most commonly known as CHOICE (all capitals), the Australian Consumers' Association is an Australian not for profit consumer advocacy organisation. It is an independent membership based organisation founded in 1959 that researches and campaigns on behalf of Australian consumers. It is similar to the Consumers Union in the United States and Which? in the United Kingdom, who are considered sister organisations. It is the largest consumer organisation in Australia.

CHOICE - Australian Consumers' Association
Australasian Consumers' Association
Non-profit consumer organisation[1]
FoundersRuby Hutchison and
Roland Thorp
HeadquartersMarrickville, New South Wales
Key people


CHOICE's job is to stand up against companies doing the wrong thing.[3] The aim of the organisation is to provide up-to-date information across a wide range of consumer issues that allows individuals to make informed consumer decisions. It also lobbies for change on behalf of consumers when required. CHOICE tests and rates a range of products and services, including appliances, baby products, electronics and home entertainment, computers, food and health, and financial products and services.[4] More than 200,000 people subscribe to the CHOICE magazine.[5][6]

In 2003, revenue for the organisation was over $10m and by 2019 had grown to over $20m.[6][7] It is a multi-faceted business with a staff of 80, which includes the scientists and technicians who test the products, policy specialists who devise campaigns, lobby politicians and speak on issues, as well as the journalists who write for CHOICE magazine.[6]

CHOICE buys most of the products it tests on the open market and does not accept advertising. Its income is derived from subscriptions and from the sale of its publications and products. It does not receive ongoing funding from commercial, government or other organisations.[1][8]

Campaigns and policyEdit

CHOICE also campaigns on behalf of consumers and is a representative on many national and state-based government committees, councils and independent bodies related to consumer rights and issues including food regulation and labelling, health and financial services, telecommunications and digital technology, standards codes, ecologically sustainable development and the environment.[5][9]

The organisation also holds the annual "Shonky Awards" that highlight dubious or dishonest behaviour. They name and shame that year's most suspect products and companies.[10]

Every year CHOICE and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission host the Ruby Hutchison Memorial Lecture presenting consumer and rights topics.[11]


Following World War II, the economy and population of Australia was booming, but it was becoming clear that consumers did not have much guidance or protection.[4]

Ruby Hutchison, MLC, the first woman to be elected to Western Australian upper house,[12] had been receiving complaints from her constituents about the quality and value for money of goods.[13] She knew of overseas consumer organisations in the US and UK so she found out how they worked with a view to creating something similar in Australia.[6][4]

By the late 1950s there was an increase in market competition, a fall in product standards and what was seen as industry-wide manipulation by marketers.[4] It was in this context that in 1959 Hutchison travelled to Sydney to discuss her idea with a group of like-minded people, including Roland Thorp, Professor of Pharmacology at the University of Sydney. Discussions culminated at public meeting on 17 September 1959 at the Sydney Town Hall with the establishment of the Australasian Consumers' Association, which was renamed the Australian Consumers' Association in 1963.[14][15] The primary aim was to produce a magazine that would inform consumers about their rights and about products, their value and safety.[16][17][18]

The first magazine was launched in April 1960 and distributed to 500 subscribers.[15] Membership grew quickly and in 1961 the organisation was represented at an international Conference of Consumers’ Associations in The Hague, where it became a founding member of the International Organisation of Consumers Unions (IOCU — now Consumers International, CI), along with consumer organisations in the US, UK, Belgium and the Netherlands.[19][20]

At first, the Australian Consumers' Association reprinted material from its UK and US counterparts. In 1962 it participated in the first international IOCU test (of watches). It also conducted tests in university labs outside work hours and established a scientific testing panel. The experts on the panel were responsible for one test each per year, which they'd oversee on behalf of the ACA and the organisation established a reputation for thoroughly verifying its test data.[4]

In 1983, CHOICE moved from Chippendale to Marrickville, New South Wales, where its head office and laboratories are still located.[8][21]

List of chairpeopleEdit

CHOICE (Australian magazine)Edit

CHOICE (Australian magazine)
Managing EditorMargaret Rafferty[27]
CategoriesConsumer advocacy
PublisherAustralian Consumers' Association
First issueApril 1960
Based inMarrickville, New South Wales

CHOICE is a publication of the Australian consumer organisation of that name,[28] a non-profit organisation founded in 1959 (as the Australian Consumers Association) to research and advocate on behalf of Australian consumers.[4]

History and profileEdit

CHOICE was established in 1960 by Ruby Hutchison and Roland Thorp.[28] The magazine tests and compares different consumer products and services and reports their findings. It is published eleven times per year. The headquarters is in Marrickville, New South Wales.[28]

Other publicationsEdit

The organisation publishes several products including:

  • CHOICE magazine — a monthly magazine, published eleven times a year.
  • CHOICE Computer — a magazine, published six times a year.
  • CHOICE Health Reader — Reports on developments in the health area, published ten times a year.
  • CHOICE Books — various titles, including The CHOICE Guide to Baby Products and Sustainable House.[6][29]

The Shonky AwardsEdit

CHOICE also holds the annual "Shonky Awards" that highlight dubious or dishonest behaviour from companies. The awards help consumers to identify the worst of the worst, and name and shame that year's shonkiest products and companies.[10][3] "Shonky" is Australian slang meaning "unreliable, unsound, dishonest, poor or of dubious quality; shoddy".[30]

Notable past Shonky Award winners:Edit

  • The Australian pet insurance industry - 2019 - "For catch-22 pet insurance whose conditions make it worthless".[31] "Bad insurance riddled with exclusions".[3]
  • The Ikea Nedkyld refrigerator - 2019 - "Failed on so many fronts",[27] "it uses a lot more electricity than it claims on its energy star rating label. It's also one of the worst performing fridges we've seen",[31] "you're also going to be paying extra for replacing all the spoiled food".[3]
  • The KitchenAid 2-Slice toaster - 2018 - ($189) "Loaded it, and waited for the familiar pop, only to pluck out slightly dried, warm bread - even on the highest browning setting".[31]
  • The Australian divisions of Honda, Toyota, Lexus, BMW and Mazda - 2017 - "For repeatedly failing to disclose a safety device that can actually kill you. The recall of Takata airbags".[31]
  • Nature's Way Kids Smart natural medicines - 2012 - "This range of homeopathic 'remedies' for children was deemed "an affront to public health and medical science".[31]
  • Peachy Pink briefs - 2011 - "Peach-infused super-tight pants also got a nod, with their "clinically-proven" weight loss effect. The ethos of the test lab behind the clinical trial, Spincontrol Laboratories, didn't exactly fill us with confidence".[31]
  • The Power Balance wristband - 2010 - "The only power this bracelet seems to have, placebo effect notwithstanding, is in tipping its distributor's bank balance well and truly into the black".[3][31]
  • L’Oréal Elvive - 2009 - "With their dizzying names for miracle ingredients proven in so-called clinical trials - which they clarify in the fine print as 'consumer perception' studies."[31]
  • Nutella Hazelnut Spread - 2007 - "'Less fat than most peanut butters, less sugar than most jam' say the ads. Maybe, but equally it contains more sugar than most peanut butters and more fat than jam".[31]

Two of the 2017 Shonky Award finalists were referred onto the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission for alleged breaches of Australian Consumer Law. Finalist Coles Complete Cuisine cat food was referred on for misleading labelling and contradictory claims in the small print. Also, finalist Nature’s Way (Pharmacare) Kids Smart Vita Gummies was referred on for potentially misleading consumers about the supplement’s health benefits for children and failing to list the amount of sugar contained in each serving.[32]


In 2018 the company Australian Hearing was prosecuted and fined for multiple breaches of competition and consumer laws. At the time of the breaches in 2017, the company was led by Bill Davidson who at the time was also the Deputy Chairman of CHOICE. CHOICE issued a statement rebuking Australian Hearing’s actions after Davidson had left Australian Hearing in early 2018.[33]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Brown, Jane; Marsden, Fiona (1996). A history of the Australian consumer movement (PDF). A.C.T.: Consumers' Federation of Australia. pp. 33–35. ISBN 0646286676. Archived (PDF) from the original on 24 March 2016.
  2. ^ Dapin, Mark (3 May 2013). "Making the big choices simpler". The Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 6 November 2016.
  3. ^ a b c d e Saunders, Richard (13 October 2019). CHOICE Magazine & The Shonky Awards | Skeptic Zone #574. The Skeptic Zone (podcast). 3:10 minutes in. Archived from the original on 13 January 2020.
  4. ^ a b c d e f McLeod, Amanda (2008). "Quality control: The origins of the Australian Consumers' Association". Business History. 50: 79–98. doi:10.1080/00076790701785664.
  5. ^ a b "CHOICE (Australian Consumers' Association) - Consumers International". Consumers International. UK. 2017. Archived from the original on 23 March 2018.
  6. ^ a b c d e "One half of the dream ticket is still waiting". The Age. Melbourne. 6 July 2003. Archived from the original on 29 November 2019.
  7. ^ Directors' Report (30 September 2019). Financial Report - For the year ended 30 June 2019 (Report). Australian Consumers' Association. p. 10.
  8. ^ a b "Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, CHOICE". Australian Government. 27 March 2012. Archived from the original on 27 March 2012.
  9. ^ CHOICE Magazine Jan/Feb 2004. Australia: CHOICE. 2004. p. 17.
  10. ^ a b "The CHOICE Shonky Awards". CHOICE. 30 September 2019. Archived from the original on 26 October 2019.
  11. ^ "Ruby Hutchison Memorial Lecture". ACCC. 20 February 2013. Archived from the original on 31 March 2019.
  12. ^ Moore, Kate (2015). "Hutchison, Ruby Florence - Woman". The Encyclopedia of Women and Leadership in Twentieth-Century Australia. Archived from the original on 15 July 2018.
  13. ^ "CHOICE 50th anniversary: 01.How it all began - the Sixties". CHOICE. 23 March 2010. Archived from the original on 13 November 2010.
  14. ^ "The Choice is yours". The Sydney Morning Herald. 21 October 2006. Archived from the original on 28 November 2019.
  15. ^ a b "The CHOICE story". CHOICE. 1 March 2015. Archived from the original on 7 January 2019.
  16. ^ Crawford, Robert; Humphery, Kim; Smart, Judith (2010). Consumer Australia: Historical Perspectives. Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars. p. 98. ISBN 9781443823050.
  17. ^ McLeod, Amanda (April 2013). "Consumer choice: Another case of deceptive advertising?" (PDF). Simplicity Collective. Archived (PDF) from the original on 20 April 2016.
  18. ^ "Consumer Advocacy in Victoria - Research Paper No. 7" (PDF). Consumer Affairs Victoria. Victorian Government. March 2006. Archived (PDF) from the original on 21 March 2019.
  19. ^ Hilton, Matthew (2009). Prosperity for All: Consumer Activism in an Era of Globalization. Ithaca, NY, US: Cornell University Press. pp. 33. ISBN 9780801475078.
  20. ^ Loay, Allan (20 April 2010). "Voice of the people". The Star Online. Malaysia. Archived from the original on 28 November 2019.
  21. ^ CHOICE 50th anniversary: 03.Eighties, Choice, 23 March 2010, archived from the original on 9 August 2014
  22. ^ "The Hon. Wayne Haylen QC". NSW Racehorse Owners' Association. 2013. Archived from the original on 15 March 2016.
  23. ^ "Annual Report 2006 - The Governing Body". Economic Regulation Authority of W.A. State of Western Australia. 2006. Archived from the original on 29 November 2019.
  24. ^ Schmidt, Lucinda (2 March 2011). "Profile: Jenni Mack". The Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 29 November 2019.
  25. ^ Mckertich, Kevin (11 September 2013). "Victoria Legal Aid executive announced as CHOICE's new Chair". Victoria Legal Aid. Archived from the original on 28 November 2019.
  26. ^ Sandberg, Phil (30 August 2017). "Choice Announces Sandra Davey as New Chair | People". Content + Technology Magazine. Archived from the original on 29 November 2019.
  27. ^ a b Doyle, Michael (25 December 2019). "The items to avoid at the Boxing Day sales". News Pty Limited. Archived from the original on 11 January 2020.
  28. ^ a b c Choice: journal of the Australian Consumers' Association. National Library of Australia. Australian Consumers' Association. 2016. Archived from the original on 5 April 2018.
  29. ^ "Help and FAQs - What's Premium content?". CHOICE. 30 March 2014. Archived from the original on 30 March 2014.
  30. ^ "The 13th Annual CHOICE Shonkys - 2018". CHOICE. 30 December 2018. Archived from the original on 11 March 2019.
  31. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Hall of Shame - Shonky Awards". CHOICE. 30 December 2019. Archived from the original on 12 January 2020.
  32. ^ Nankervis, Troy (5 October 2017). "Shonky Awards Sparks Two Consumer Watchdog Complaints". Triple M Radio. Southern Cross Austereo. Archived from the original on 14 January 2020.
  33. ^ Mizen, Ronald (1 October 2018). "Company led by Choice deputy chairman fined over consumer law breaches". Australian Financial Review. Archived from the original on 12 January 2020.

External linksEdit