Comparison sites accused of underhand tactics
The five biggest price comparison websites in the energy market are being accused of all manner of things lately. One of the things being levelled at them is that they're sending callers to energy tariffs that earn them commission when they're not the cheapest deal at all.
Looks like, if you ring up and ask for the cheapest deal, there's a chance that you'll be sent to the cheapest energy deal that gets the comparison site a commission, rather than the actual deal that is best for you.
If we were Harry Hill, we'd do a sideways look to camera right about now.
Website The Big Deal has released recordings of phone conversations and transcripts from the last month, which they claim that the five biggest comparison sites - Confused.com, uSwitch, Go Compare, Compare the Market and MoneySuperMarket - conveniently failed to tell callers that some deals about the deals that don't pay them a commission.
So, with uSwitch for example, the price difference between the cheapest tariff and the one that they claimed was the cheapest deal (according to The Big Deal) was £60. uSwitch aren't amused and said: "We have very strict guidelines in place for our call centre advisers to follow and these include informing customers of the cheapest deal available, whether we can switch them to it or not."
"We are investigating this matter fully and will take disciplinary action with any individual found to have breached these guidelines."
The Big Deal co-founder Will Hodson said their findings show that comparison sites are "behaving as badly over the phone as they are online", adding that those who will be ringing comparison companies will be people who aren't fans of the internet, like old people or those who can't afford an internet connection. Vulnerable people, basically.
Of course, this follows The Big Deals findings that comparison sites were pulling a fast one online too. Ofgem are also looking into it all and have banned comparison sites from automatically showing a partial view of deals from suppliers paying commission to them, instead, they've now got to start showing all available deals on the market.
MoneySuperMarket spokesman Stephen Murray said: "We completely deny the allegation that we lied to the customer. The telephone operator stated at the start that there were products available which she couldn't switch the customer to. However, having reviewed this call, in this instance we feel we could have made that clearer. We are reviewing what we say to customers to ensure this is always crystal clear in future."
Compare the Market.com's spokesmeerkat said: "This mystery shopping exercise merely demonstrates that price comparison websites provide a valuable and transparent service to consumers."
"The shopper was shown the whole of market when he searched for tariffs online. When he then decided to call our customer helpline to switch through an adviser, it was made very clear that his current tariff was being compared to a wide range of tariffs currently available through comparethemarket.com. Therefore, all quotes he was given over the phone were tariffs available to him through comparethemarket.com rather than the whole of market."
"This process is clear and easy to use. We refute all claims that we misled the caller or offered an uncompetitive tariff."