Price comparison websites, shopping around can save you money………

November 23, 2012

Shopping around for the best deal is fast becoming second nature to today’s consumers. Tight budgets and reduced incomes mean it is important to make sure your purchases are cost effective.

 

Price comparison websites have become a common way to secure better value for money for a wide range of products and services.

Following a review by the Office of Fair Trading some consumers are missing out on competitive deals due to a lack of trust in price comparison websites. The Office of Fair Trading found that some of the 55 companies reviewed, improvements could be made to privacy policies, complaints procedures, and search results could be clarified and presented more clearly.

The Office of Fair Trading, sector regulators, consumer groups and other government departments have come together to develop six ‘top tips’. These tips are to help provide guidance to consumers who are new to price comparison sites and in general help consumers get the most out of this type of service.

Protect your data

Always read the information these sites provide (usually in a privacy policy but sometimes in the part of the terms and conditions dealing with data and privacy).

If you do not want your personal information to be passed to other companies, check to see if there is the ability to ‘opt out’ on the website, for example by ticking a box to say that you do not give your consent for your information to be shared.

 

Make the comparison which is most helpful to you.

Check if your results are presented by relevance, price, or popularity and what the website says about how often it updates its information on prices and availability of goods.

Use a number of different sites.

Expressions like ‘we’ve found the best deal’ or ‘we’ve searched the market’ don’t guarantee you are seeing every available offer in the market, so always check out what is on offer on a number of different sites.

 

Know who you are doing business with.

Check whether the site tells you the identity of the business (not just the name of the website) and their business address. By law they have to do so.

 

Do your homework.

If you can, use an accredited site as they have met certain standards for accreditation. Some websites comparing energy products are accredited by Consumer Focus and some telecoms comparison websites are accredited by Ofcom. Some financial services websites are compared by the Government backed Money Advice Service.

 

Problem or complaint?

Citizens Advice can help Some sites may tell you that they are not liable if they make mistakes or mislead you; this may not in fact be the case. If you want to complain but aren’t sure how, Citizens Advice can help you to direct your complaint to the relevant person. Visit www.adviceguide.org.uk or call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 08454 04 05 06.

Clive Maxwell, OFT Chief Executive, said:

‘Price comparison websites help busy shoppers find a good deal, but people might not realise that by being a bit savvier they can get even more out of these websites.

‘Not all price comparison websites have the same standards and we are working closely with the Government and regulators to ensure that consumers are empowered to make informed choices. We hope this will improve trust and confidence among consumers who do not currently use price comparison websites, and who may be missing out on significant savings as a result.

‘As companies release more data back to consumers under the Government’s ‘midata’ initiative, there will be new opportunities for people to get better value using price comparison sites, so it’s important that issues around consumer trust are tackled now.’

For further information on the price comparison companies reviewed go to:

http://www.oft.gov.uk/OFTwork/consumer-protection/campaign11-12/price-comparison-websites/