/ Money

Are price comparison sites leading you astray?

Laptops showing price comparison sites

Price comparison sites offer a great way of comparing like-for-like products and services, right? Think again. You might get a good deal at first, but when it comes to making a claim you could be left out of pocket.

If you’re paying too much for your car insurance or your energy bill has recently rocketed, you’re probably in the right frame of mind to shop around for a better deal. But will you get a good one on a price comparison site?

Maybe not. I know it sounds weird, but comparison sites too often fail to compare like with like. It seems their interpretation of two supposedly comparable policies is a little skewed.

Not all car insurance policies, for example, are of the same standard or serve the same purpose. Some will be fairly basic, others more comprehensive. Ignoring this and comparing on price alone would lead you to conclude that the best policy is the cheapest. This is crazy – it’s like saying a Ford Focus is much better than a Ferrari because it’s cheaper.

Are they using dodgy tactics?

Comparison sites employ a host of tactics to make themselves more attractive to visitors. These include boosting a quote’s voluntary excess to push down the price, meaning you’d have to stump up more cash in the event of a claim.

The same goes for using pre-ticked boxes – missing these could mean your quote isn’t quite based on what you want. Take home insurance. You might not have smoke alarms fitted, but if this is pre-selected and you miss it, you may get a better quote than you should. If you then try to claim in the event of a fire, you’ll find out how expensive this oversight is, as your claim could get turned down.

Time to get it right

These sites have been around long enough to get it right, and while they are very convenient to use, their use can only be gauged by what you are offered at the end of the process.

I think it’s time for comparison sites to grow up and offer consumers what they want, by presenting quotes that both match the requirements identified by the customer and are uniform across the site. Fudging the results to make you think you’re getting a good deal, when you may not be, isn’t right.

Rosebud says:
20 May 2011

I guess it depends how easy you want things. You could go through loads of individual websites and complete the forms on numerous occasions and spend a great deal of time, or you can enter your details into one or two comparison websites and have reasonable quotes in minutes. Either way, you are going to get phone calls that my be irritating (if you gave the correct number) or emails (which you can opt out of immediately). If you are a genuine customer, why is that a problem?

If you feel strongly about comparison websites, just don’t use them and see whether you can still feel confident that you have got a good deal by ringing round a la 1990’s.


Comparison websites invariably push up the prices of insurance for all customers.

The average affiliate payment is around £60 mark per sign up/policy taken out via these websites, who do people think pays this affiliate fee?
– the insurance company or the customer?

Aviva bought out a price comparison website a few years ago and then a year later proclaimed that their own norwich union insurance business had reportedly given out an extra 700,000 quotes.
One of the most popular comparison websites was set up using a loan from a famous online (E) insurance company.

Do we really know where our information goes, what lists it is being placed on and sold on for more profits for the company? I don’t believe people do.

Julie of Lytham says:
21 May 2011

I was very concerned recently when I did a comparison for my daughter’s car insurance. She is a student in Manchester. The questions on the comparison site regarding where the car was kept overnight were phrased in a certain manner which resulted in a quote of £800. However, when I went through to the insurance company to buy there was a short sentence at the bottom which said please click here to check your details because assumptions have been made. When I completed the insurance companies questions, the question about where the car was kept was different. The final quote was £2700. If I hadn’t double checked the details I feel she would have been “effectively” uninsured, knowing insurance companies, they would have probably refused to pay out in the event of an accident. Comparison sites are definitely not to be trusted and users should be double checking the information and comparing policies. Holiday insurance is a prime example. I pay a lot more for my annual holiday insurance than I could get it for, but we ski annually and the cheaper policies do not cover things such as piste closure for too much snow. Be careful when using them

Brian Horne says:
1 June 2011

To say that price comparison web-sites charge a fee which is passed on to customers is a statement of the obvious, which would be true for any broker. What is annoying is probably the faiult of the insurers rather than the web-sites but when I get an insurance renewal notice (for car, home or van) I can usually get a better price from the same insurer by using one of the leadeing web-sites. As far as I can see the policy details are identical.
Another complaint is that, for me, the attraction of using such sites is the opportunity they offer to research offers and make comparisons in peace and at a time of my own choosing. Some sites, however, appear to use contact details to start badgering and hassling over the phone.