Wales

Price Comparison Websites

Price comparison or ‘aggregator’ sites have grown enormously in popularity in recent years. In general, they represent a major step forward – enabling you to secure better value when buying insurance, financial services, utilities, telecoms and other products quickly and easily – and will undoubtedly increase in popularity as online sales contribute to grow. You may be missing out on potential savings if you do not trust price comparison sites. In order to do so, however, you need to be sure that the information presented to you is accurate, up-to-date and in the right order of prominence.

The risks

  • Your data could be shared with other websites and businesses.
  • You may not end up receiving the best deal owing to the results not necessarily being listed in the best order for you, or some deals being excluded from the results.
  • Some websites may not be receptive to a complaint.
  • In a small number of cases, the websites linked to from the price comparison site – or the site itself – may be bogus.
  • Phishing emails requesting login and payment card details, claiming to be from price comparison websites, but actually from fraudsters.

Using price comparison sites safely

  • Protect your data by checking the price comparison site’s terms and conditions dealing with data and privacy.
  • If you do not want your personal information to be passed to other companies, ensure that you have the ability to ‘opt out’ of doing so on the website, for example by ticking a box to say that you do not give your consent for your information to be shared.
  • Make the comparison by requesting the results which are most helpful to you, for example not only by price but perhaps the excess on an insurance policy, or flexible terms with a loan.
  • Check if your results are presented by relevance, price, or popularity and what the website says about how often it updates its information on prices and availability of goods.
  • Use a number of different sites: not every deal is found on every site despite the presence of expressions such as ‘we’ve found the best deal’ or ‘we’ve searched the market’.
  • Know who you are doing business with. Make sure that the site reveals the identity of the business (not just the name of the website) and their business address, both legal requirements.
  • If possible, use a site accredited by the relevant regulatory body, such as Consumer Focus for energy products, Ofcom for telecoms and the Government-backed Money Advice Service for financial services.

The above advice also applies to any websites you are directed to by the price comparison site.

And always remember…

  • Use strong passwords. Never reveal your website access or online payment passwords to anybody.
  • If you think that your online payment account has been compromised, take action immediately. Check the site’s online help page.
  • Be wary about clicking on links provided in unsolicited emails. For example, it is better to enter your bank’s website address into your browser directly, or use a bookmark that you created using the correct address.
  • If you pay by payment card, remember that a credit card offers greater protection than with other methods in terms of fraud, guarantees and non-delivery.
  • When paying either by online payment service or payment card, ensure that the link is secure, in two ways:
    • There should be a padlock symbol in the browser window frame, which appears when you attempt to log in or register. Be sure that the padlock is not on the page itself … this will probably indicate a fraudulent site.
    • The web address should begin with ‘https://’. The ‘s’ stands for ‘secure’.
  • The above indicate only that the link between you and the website owner is secure, and not that the site itself is authentic. You need to do this by carefully checking the address for subtle misspellings, additional words and characters and other irregularities.
  • Always log out of sites into which you have logged in or registered details. Simply closing your browser is not enough to ensure privacy.
  • Keep receipts.
  • Check credit card and bank statements carefully after shopping to ensure that the correct amount has been debited, and also that no fraud has taken place as a result of the transaction.
  • Ensure you have effective and updated antivirus/antispyware software and firewall running before you go online.

If you have queries or issues regarding a price comparison site

Contact Citizens Advice, who can help you to direct your complaint to the relevant person. Visit www.adviceguide.org.uk or call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 08454 04 05 06.

If you suspect that you have been directed to a dishonest or fraudulent website, report the incident to the price comparison website’s team.

If you think you have been a victim of fraud:

Report it to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud reporting centre by calling 0300 123 20 40 or by visiting  www.actionfraud.police.uk. If you are in Scotland, contact Police Scotland on 101.

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Jargon Buster

A Glossary of terms used in this article:

Phishing

An attempt at identity theft in which criminals lead users to a counterfeit website in the hope that they will disclose private information such as user names or passwords.