Bid to boost public trust in price comparison websites

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The trading watchdog has written to 100 major price comparison websites amid concerns that a lack of confidence and trust is preventing some people getting the most out of them.

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) conducted a sweep of 55 comparison sites and found that some could be clearer about the way search results are presented and make it more obvious which businesses people are dealing with.

The regulator said more should be done by some sites to step up their privacy policies and complaints procedures.

Its review said that a “lack of trust” means that some people are missing out on potential savings, although the emergence of the websites generally has been a “major step forward” in helping consumers get better value when buying goods and services.

The OFT’s market study into internet shopping in 2007 estimated that collectively, consumers stood to potentially gain extra savings of £150m to £240m a year by using such websites.

But Clive Maxwell, OFT chief executive, said: “Not all price comparison websites have the same standards and we are working closely with the Government and regulators to ensure consumers are empowered to make informed choices.

“We hope this will improve trust and confidence among consumers who do not currently use price comparison websites, and who may be missing out on significant savings as a result.”

The OFT has released two new films which on its YouTube channel to help people get the most out of comparison websites.

It said that if people do not want their information to be shared with other companies, they should check what “opt out” options are on the website.

Comparison sites typically take large amounts of information about users, such as in cases where people are looking for a car insurance quote. This information can then potentially be re-used by the business for marketing purposes.

The Data Protection Act requires that all businesses collecting personal data explain to consumers who is collecting their information, what they intend to do with it and who it will be shared with.