Slingshot has shaken a few trees in recent months with its legally dubious Global Mode, which makes use of a workaround and lets Kiwi viewers access sites like Netflix and Hulu, and it's fully embraced the Streisand Effect to get some more attention after a few major broadcasters decided not to show the ad. Now it's continuing on that quest in a slightly different way by backing a new website called frontup.co.nz that shows how much Kiwis pay for goods and services in comparison to other markets.
Kiwis paying too much is an old chestnut that many media outlets and consumer-rights organisations have delved into in the past. And Front Up, which is written by a team of independent (but un-named) journalists, is based on the premise that we're constantly getting ripped off. The website reviews the price of goods, compares the price to other countries and then asks the companies to explain themselves. But of the 12 stories published so far, only Samsung and Slingshot have responded to questions about the Galaxy S5 and broadband respectively.
If they do respond, consumers can have their say about whether the company’s pricing argument stands up by clicking 'Yeah' or 'Nah', and then comment or suggest potential topics via Facebook and Twitter.
Among the other topics so far have been Apple’s iPhone 5S, Sony Playstation 4, Nike shoes, Windows 8.1, bread, milk, coffee and electricity. It has also looked at the price of products such as glass and plasterboard. Online shopping has levelled the playing field slightly in some categories, and NZ Post has fully embraced it with YouShop, which could almost be described as Global Mode for physical goods. But while everyone seems to want a simple answer when it comes to discrepancies in pricing, currency, competition, context and many other things come into it, so there generally isn't one.
Even so, Slingshot general manager Taryn Hamilton says the goal of the site is simple: to make sure Kiwis are treated fairly and charged fair prices.
"There might be a good reason for the high price, but I’m picking most of the time there won’t be. We might be a small country tucked down in the far corner of the world but that doesn’t mean we should be taken advantage of and asked to pay excessive prices for things like Nikes or even basics such as bread and milk ... We believe it’s important to give consumers transparency, but to also put pressure on big name brands and companies that sell these products to justify these prices properly for consumers." "
Earlier this year Consumer ran a series on New Zealanders paying too much for content, using season four of Game of Thrones as an example. And, given Global Mode's focus, that topic is no doubt on the list for frontup.co.nz (the site will be updated every week).
UPDATE: As for Global Mode, Slingshot sent through a brief statement saying: "Bottomline is Global Mode is going well and since July 4 uptake has quadrupled."