/ Money

Something’s wrong with price comparison sites

A selection of price comparison websites

It seems that you can’t turn on the box without being bombarded with meerkats or fat tenors singing the praises of price comparison websites. The only problem is – they’re not necessarily all they’re cracked up to be.

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) recently published a report on whether shopping websites are breaching Consumer Protection Regulations. It appeared to give price comparison sites the all clear. Yet, we’ve found that many of them could be misleading.

The OFT argued that the current practices of comparison sites were fine since most people it surveyed knew that the websites accepted commission from product providers and didn’t cover the whole market.

However, that still leaves some people who think that all products are considered and that the results are presented on merit alone. This, in the end, leaves them at a potential disadvantage.

A lack of trust

When we investigated comparison sites for the January issue of Which? magazine, we found that the majority of people were suspicious of them. Only one in five said that they actually trusted sites like Moneysupermarket.com, Confused.com and Comparethemarket.com to find the best price possible.

And they have good reason to be wary. Take credit card searches as an example – some of the major sites will only show a small range of cards, and even then, the best deals won’t appear at the top, or are hidden behind a further link.

The right results?

Sure, comparison sites are convenient. You can get dozens of quotes in one hit, but if the results delivered don’t match the criteria you specified, what use are they?

Too many times the excess you‘d pay up-front in the event of an insurance claim is higher than the one you’re invited to select in the quote process. Also, many sites still make assumptions that can disadvantage customers, such as pre-selecting monthly rather than annual payments – the former will cost you more.

Let alone the fact that any assumption, if incorrect, can invalidate a policy. For instance, when you’re buying home insurance, if you miss the reference to ‘not living on a floodplain’ when you do live in an area at risk, you could end up with a policy you can’t claim on.

I don’t think any of this is right, and given none of the sites got a customer satisfaction score of more than 47%, it seems neither do you. Perhaps it’s time for the OFT to take a fresh look at price comparison websites?

Comments
Guest
David Betton says:
22 December 2010

What’s a ‘flood plane’? Is it one of those flying boats???

Profile photo of Rosie Jordan
Guest

Well spotted, David! Don’t think the new spelling will take off though 😉

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
Guest

Yes, that’s a good one. I’ve fixed that now David – thanks for pointing it out.

Guest
julie says:
11 January 2011

whilst looking at comparison sites for a cruise I wanted to make sure that I was covered for airlift from ship if necessary. So I phoned one of the companies to check ,and the very helpful guy said that if I was going through the comparison websitesI would not be covered but if I booked through direct contact I would be .How bizarre is that I now don’t trust them at all and will only deal with companies direct