Would you trust a salesman to give you clear, impartial advice? Which! one?
If you were in a Mercedes garage, you wouldn’t expect to be told that actually, the Volkswagen offered better value would you? Or for a double glazing company to start recommending competitors’ products? Similarly, if an ‘independent’ consumer advice organisation starts to refer people to its panel of preferred insurance products, for which it likely receives a hefty fee, would you believe those products were the best for your pocket- or for theirs?
Consumer champion Which! is doing just that, and experts reckon they risk losing consumers’ trust by engaging in commercial activities such as mortgage and protection sales that could sway their supposedly independent and unbiased opinions. After all, it is the perception of impartiality that’s paramount.
Which!! is to begin advising clients of its mortgage advisory branch on protection products, starting in autumn 2014. Such advice was previously outsourced to independent adviser LifeSearch.
Plan Money director Peter Chadborn said: “As a consumer group, the further Which!!! forays into this kind of activity, the more they will dilute consumers’ perception of trust. It is very hard to call yourself a consumer champion while you are effectively selling products at the same time.”
Ray Boulger senior technical manager at John Charcol tutted: “How on earth can it be an entirely impartial advice service? By definition if you are setting up a panel of providers you are not offering whole of market advice, which just further dents the notion that you are an impartial and unbiased service.”
A spokeswoman for Which!!!! said that they achieved “positive change for all consumers by providing genuinely impartial advice and services that put consumers’ needs first” adding that “any profits we make from our commercial enterprises are ploughed back into our work for all consumers.”
We’ll let you decide what you think.