Which? changes its website to be more honest with users, almost
You might remember a couple of weeks ago (or you might not, depending on whether you've got a crippling addiction to Calpol or not) we called out consumer champions Which? for accepting pay-per-click advertising on its website, allowing companies to increase the visibility of their products above others, while not telling their users what was happening. Not that we've got some blood-crazed deathwish to piss off the world, but when you operate by the edict of “no advertising, no bias, no hidden agenda” then something's not right.
We led you through the masses of affiliate deals Which? had in place with the brands it was recommending, and we proved that Which? was running pay-per-click advertising on certain pages, displaying the logos of those brands it stood to make money from. Those it didn't have affiliate deals with received less promotion and had no logo displayed.
We asked Which? about the advertising and they admitted to it all, although they preferred to refer to their revenue from the pay-per-click deals as an "admin fee" because that made it ok. Since then have been a couple of changes to the site, surpisingly. First, a rather large caveat has appeared below all the deals featured on the site:
Secondly, the section of the site which we specifically highlighted - the Best Buy Personal Loans section has been placed behind the paywall operated by Which? - nothing like a knee-jerk reaction to our criticisms at all, then. Oh, except they've forgotton to de-activate the direct link to the page, so we can still see what they've done. They've stopped displaying the logos of those companies they had pay-per-click deals with, meaning all the deals are as prominent as one another. Except they're not, because Which? will only link to the Best Buy recommendations they can profit from - for example, on the top result you have to open up another window and enter the url manually, because there's no direct link. How many people will therefore click on the deals there are links for because of ease and make Which? more money? Sorry, "admin fees".
You've almost got it right, Which? - but if you're going to be completely fair, why not link to all deals, not just those that make you money? It's the only way to present the recommendations in a completely fair way.