The OFT has published a report to highlight how consumers can make the best use of price comparison websites (PCWs). This follows an OFT review which found that while PCWs can help people get better deals, use of these sites can be held back by a lack of understanding, trust and confidence among some groups of consumers.
The OFT has also provided guidance for consumers in the form of Top Tips for using PCWs, and two short films.
Price comparison websites (PCWs) are a key choice tool for consumers. When operating effectively, they enable consumers to compare products across the market, reduce the amount of time searching and comparing, and ultimately get better deals.
Price comparison websites: trust, choice and consumer empowerment in online markets
The report looks at:
Download the final report (pdf 1.96Mb)
The OFT has joined forces with other government departments, sector regulators and consumer groups to offer Top Tips for consumers on how to shop around and get the best out of price comparison websites.
Download a flyer: Top Tips for using price comparison websites (pdf 882kb)
The Top Tips are:
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.
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.
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.
If you can, use an accredited site as part of your search 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 are compared by the Government backed Money Advice Service.
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.
Make sure you understand how to use price comparison websites, and how to protect your personal data.
Understand how to use PCWs - Protect your data - View video
It's good to use a price comparison site that's accredited and to use different sites to make sure you're searching the entire market.
Understand how to use PCWs - Do your homework - View video
The OFT has written to 100 leading price comparison website operators, to make them aware of the OFT's work in this area, including the consumer awareness activity.
For more information about the OFT's work on price comparison websites contact james.macBeth@oft.gsi.gov.uk