Price comparison sites might be serving themselves, before you
In fantastically shocking news that absolutely no-one was more than well aware of, price comparison sites have been accused for hiding the best deals because they'd rather promote the ones that serve them better. It's almost like this hasn't been going on for years!
The Big Deal website have started throwing accusations around (so lawyers, if you'd like to go to them instead of us, that'd be lovely) saying that five of Britain's biggest price comparison sites are being deceitful.
Well, they've said that uSwitch never showed the cheapest deal over the Big Deal's 13 week investigation, as well as regularly hiding three of the top five cheapest deals.
The sites use mechanisms to "hide deals where they ask users if they want to see deals they can switch to 'today' or 'now'", according to a statement from The Big Deal. By clicking 'yes' to this option, the websites remove deals which don't earn the price comparison sites a commission from the energy companies. Those just happen to be the cheapest deals. The Big Deal says that Money Supermarket and Confused automatically tick the 'yes' option.
They also say that Compare the Market and Go Compare automatically show users these results without asking the user, adding that "you have to go through several screens to 'filter your results' to see the cheapest deals."
The bad news for these sites is that hiding deals could well be in breach of EU and UK law.
"Price comparison sites are worth hundreds of millions of pounds, make huge profits and with over 5 million people switching a year are a major part of the energy market," said The Big Deal co-founders Henry de Zoete and Will Hodson in an open letter to the major price comparison sites. "Yet there is no transparency to how they make their money or how much they charge. Polling by Populus found that 43% of people did not even realise that the sites charge energy companies a commission."
uSwitch aren't having it though, saying: "We are fully accredited under the Ofgem Confidence Code, meaning that our results tables are always ordered by the savings a customer can make in a fair, independent and unbiased way."
"We are fully supportive of Ofgem's decision to strengthen the code to ensure that all price comparison websites operate to the same high standard."
Either way, if this is news to you, make sure you tinker with the settings on any price comparison site of any sort in a bid to make sure it is working for you, rather than the middle man.