Price comparison websites

Published: 24/11/2013     Last Modified: 24/11/2013
Price comparison websites have changed the way consumers shop for insurance and the way firms design, price and distribute their products. They can save people time and provide them with more choice - however, we want to be sure that consumers aren’t being misled into believing they are buying the best product when they may not be. So we are carrying out a thematic review to ensure that consumers are being treated fairly.

What are we looking at?

We want to ensure that price comparison websites are making it easy for consumers to make an informed and balanced decision about buying general insurance.  

So we are going to look into the role that these websites play in distributing motor, home and travel insurance products and the potential risks involved, including:

  • consumers may not fully understand the services provided by price comparison websites and may be misled into purchasing insurance or add-on products that do not meet their needs
  • consumers may be treated unfairly if price comparison websites focus on generating profits, do not have enough oversight of the firms or products they display, are not aware of any possible conflicts of interest, or use consumers’ data inappropriately
  • firms may not comply with their regulatory responsibilities, such as clearly explaining their role and how to make complaints

What are we going to do?

We will look at 14 price comparison websites, which represent 90% of the market offering general insurance products. Our review will include:

  • an in-depth consumer survey to understand exactly what people want from price comparison websites when they are shopping for insurance, how they use them and how they might be improved
  • looking at how key information is presented and whether it might lead to consumers not fully understanding the service they are getting
  • looking at whether there is too much of a focus on headline price and whether consumers may be misled into purchasing insurance products or add-ons that do not meet their needs
  • looking at whether the consumer is at the heart of a firm’s business model
  • checking for conflicts of interest, such as where a recommended insurer also happens to own the price comparison website
  • looking at whether firms use consumers’ data inappropriately, or if people are being directed towards unauthorised insurers
  • checking that firms are doing the basics, such as complying with our rules clearly explaining their role and complaints process

Next steps

We will publish the results of our review and what action we expect from firms and insurers next year.

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