CHOICE membership

Is CHOICE opening the floodgates

shopping

#1

I have been a subscriber to CHOICE for 40 years. In the current issue, for the first time that I can remember, CHOICE is recommending in its test of earplugs, the top three all of which are labelled as “not sold in Australia”.

What does this mean? Is CHOICE now going to include products not available in Australia in all their tests?

Consumers in Australia are entitled to expect that the Australian Consumers Association will test products available in Australia. Equivalent Associations in other countries can look after the interests of their own subscribers. In reality I understand that we are all purchasing from overseas , but I don’t believe that ACA should be spending money on testing and promoting products not sold in Australia.


#2

Haven’t got around to reading that article yet, but the other issue is, if what you are saying ia correct, is purchasing items from overeas, the ACL provisions won’t apply should there be any problems with the purchase.

Whilst this may not be seen as an issue for earplugs, what happens if say a batch of the earplugs fails the manufacturer’s specifications and one relies on their use to protect their ears from loud noise sources? Auatralian sourced products would be covered potentially by a Australian recall where by overseas purchases are not and one could be using a defective product on mistaken belief it provides the claimed protection.


#3

Hey g.simos

We don’t typically test products that aren’t available here, though we make some exceptions for:

  • highly anticipated products due for release in Australia after US or EU launch (for example).
  • small products that ship easily and affordably, and are therefore likely to be imported by consumers.

Noise reducing (filtered) earplugs is a new consumer market that’s expanding into Australia, so we decided to cover as much of it as soon as possible by importing as many as we could. Though the earplugs are growing in popularity, many brands that appear at the top of a Google search aren’t sold here, yet online shoppers often purchase products from companies that appear on the first page of links (which is why companies spend so much time and money working out how to pop up as one of the top sites). As all of the brands tested ship to Australia for a low cost, due to the size of the products, shoppers are much more likely to import pairs as opposed to a large items.

But rest assured, CHOICE will not be moving down the path of showing larger products such as white goods, TVs etc that you can’t go into a physical store and buy.

As far as safety is concerned, the National Acoustic Laboratories (NAL - https://www.nal.gov.au/) were our testing partner, and our data shows that they assessed the products based on Australian safety standards for traditional earplugs. In terms of noise reduction claims, the Australian standard does not need to be displayed on packaging. We’ve detailed this, and provided research based on the standard, in the article


#4

PHBriggs above makes a very valid point. Purchasing overseas means we give away all our Australian consumer protection rights. I do not believe Choice should include overseas products unless they know they will be sold by an Australian based business. For example - a new iPhone will soon be available in Australia, so purchasing an testing in advance of the Australian release would be advantageous to Australian consumers. The size of the product is irrelevant. The main point is, if ifs Australian availability is not known, CHOICE should not waste time and money on testing it,and encouraging members to waive hard fought consumer rights.


#5

Thanks for the feedback @g.simos, we appreciate you taking the time to let us know about these issues. You’re right in saying we wouldn’t want to review a product that most Australians couldn’t access, and I think there’s a case here for us to clarify things a bit further in the future. The ACCC’s advice on shopping from overseas online is pretty pertinent to the discussion as well.

It’s feedback from consumers that helps us keep improving our testing and the advice we provide, so you can be sure that we’ll take a close look what our supporters have to say. If there’s anything else we can do in the meantime, just let me know :thumbsup:


#6

I agree in the case where it is not known, but if it is reasonably clear that a lot of consumers are purchasing a particular product from overseas that is not available in Australia then I’d be happy with testing. The points about consumer rights are well made. Sadly I’d reckon the only way it would become reasonably clear consumers are buying a specific product from overseas that isn’t available here is if there are either lots of complaints (dodgy product) or if there are legal issues in selling/buying/having said product in Australia - so it probably needs more of a warning status than a test …

An associated issue could be testing of overseas products that are also available here where standards apply and where claims exist that the products for different markets are different in quality, build, safety, etc - that’s probably another topic (things like motorcycle helmets spring to mind).

I also take the point that some of the products are ‘impending Australian availability’ … that’s also a tricky one - if, when, same product in our market? etc… I’d have thought there was already more than enough potential work in testing stuff available here - possibly just a sidebar about impending products would suffice in a test report …


#7

[quote=“g.simos, post:1, topic:14644”]
Consumers in Australia are entitled to expect that the Australian Consumers Association will test products available in Australia. [/quote]

I would suggest the most important questions is whether Choice is looking after the interests of Australian consumers. As far as I know, nothing requires Choice to only look at products bought in Australia.

You are right about Australians buying from overseas. Personally, I would like Choice to be checking products that are popular to purchase from overseas so that so that we know which is the best product to buy.

I’m not sure that countries like China have a consumer organization equivalent to Choice to look after the Chinese, and even if they did, they won’t be looking out for our interests when we buy from China.

So I am glad that Choice has taken the step of being proactive and looking at an useful and potentially popular product that can’t be bought here yet, but can already be purchased from overseas.


#8

How would Choice determine what Australians were currently or likely to purchase overseas.? This brings me back to the original subject line. There are vastly more products available overseas than in Australia, and Choice simply cannot test them on the off chance that they will make it to Australia. Their money should be spent testing locally.


#9

Choice was already addressing overseas purchasing as early as 2014 (https://www.choice.com.au/electronics-and-technology/internet/internet-privacy-and-safety/articles/your-rights-shopping-online-on-international-sites)

Simply a matter of asking. An online survey would be easy way to get the information.

There was no mention of testing all overseas products. What I said was:

Analysing survey responses or even buying trends would indicate which products were the most popular for purchase from overseas, but not yet available here. Those could be tested locally; as you say.


#10

Should Choice take into consideration that Australia does not always see in the local market -the best of products?

Or do we see the same product locally with hidden changes to reduce the cost?

Should Choice inform the consumer of potentially better solutions only available outside of Australia? Can Choice members rely on rushing out to buy the latest recommended product, without the risk of finding it is superseded by a better performing lower cost product weeks later?

Choice may need to look outside the local market if it is going to provide reliable advice on products. Choice may need to understand and consider product marketing and life cycles in the International market.

If Choice becomes aware of potentially better product solutions available to others in the International Market Place. Would it be reasonable for Choice to offer these up with comparitive test results and assessments?

Perhaps that is what is needed where such examples exist. Do we need to encourage the local market to change, rather than in instances dumping last quarters superseded left overs on an unsuspecting consumer?


#11

@mark_m, very interesting questions noting Choice has a finite budget and their traditional purpose is testing products available in our market.

There seems some pressure on Choice, including from forums such as this one, to broaden their mandate to be more ‘consumer activist’ and I applaud that pressure, but any company has to pick their fights on the big ones or the ones they can win or at least rack up large scores against.

Throwing in better but un-available products in an attempt to highlight the market is interesting but would it change manufacturer/importers behaviour? That is another good question.

Choice has previously addressed that problem in text but how to do? Products, especially technology products, evolve so quickly it is common for their product cycle to match publication cycles. Few manufacturers will admit a product is being discontinued or replaced until it is although some product ranges have months of hype preceding new product releases. So, as a practical matter how could/would that be accomplished?

As an example, in the recent notebooks reviews, on the day published, I checked on the top rated model and it was nowhere to be held in one’s hand as it had apparently been superseded already.

An old saw in my realm of computerdom was if it has been revealed it is smokeware; if you can order it, it is state of the art on the day; if you can hold it in your hand it is obsolete; check current smokeware. And so it goes.


#12

As a somewhat cautious consumer, It is always wise to look to more than one source where possible. Keeping across products and trends and change is a challenge for many of us.

It would be comforting to know the Choice team are best placed to assess the bigger picture. If they can use their knowledge better by pointing out new product life cycles, forward looking snapshots on coming change or other options it all helps.

It should be ok for a Choice review to say ‘recommended’ and attach a caveat to advise soon to be superseeded my alternative xyz, released in France last week, hold if you can for the new product or fire sales on the old?

I have suggested any future Choice product reviews might add as data the manufacturers first release date for each item/model in the review. And perhaps a general comment on the typical new model life cycle. For second tier mobile phones this can be quite short. For white goods this may be years aside from cosmetic titivation and trends.

Agree Choice does need to choose it’s targets to best use it’s resources.