Beware when you compare

While price comparison websites shout from the rooftops about saving you money, a new investigation by Which? has found the price you see isn’t always the price you get.

Posing as a consumer, we tested 11 of the most popular comparison sites and found many of them using pre-selected answers and assumptions in their online forms. This may make quotes appear cheaper, but can also lead to basic ‘one size fits all’ policies that could be unsuitable for individual needs or even prove invalid in the event of a claim.

Also, when our researcher got quotes for car insurance from the 11 sites, we found that many of the quotes given by the comparison sites excluded extras such as legal cover, a courtesy car or personal injury cover. None of the sites asked up front if these were required. When we clicked through to the insurers’ websites, on some sites the option to buy these extras was offered at a later stage, while on others these extras were automatically added on and needed to be removed if not required. In both cases, adding optional extras resulted in an increase to the original quote offered on the price comparison site.

Overall, customer satisfaction with comparison sites has dropped, with customer scores for comparison sites having fallen from an already low 46% to just 42% in the last year.  Our survey also found even the highest rated comparison sites were on a par with the lowest-rated insurance companies.

Price comparison sites give the impression there is no need to go anywhere else for the best deal. Our research found that none of the 11 most popular comparison sites covered more than a third of the market for home or travel insurance. 

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, says:

“Price comparison sites claim to do all of the work for you, but our research found if you want to get the best deal you still need to shop around  or it could cost you hundreds of pounds. Going to the insurer directly may also give you a better quote.

“We want to see tougher regulation and monitoring of price comparison sites to make sure they treat customers fairly and  transparently.”

Our advice to people when using price comparison sites includes:

  • Check all questions for preselected answers because missing them could affect your premium price and jeopardise future claims.
  • Double check all the details to make sure you’re getting the cover you need.
  • Make sure you get quotes from companies directly as well as using more than one price comparison site because not all providers are listed on comparison sites.
  • Watch out for unwanted extras because when you click through to a company from a comparison site they may have preselected cover you don’t need.
  • Make sure you read the privacy policy and check how your information is going to be used.

Notes to Editor 

In February 2012 Which? Money sent a researcher to get car insurance quotes from 11 popular comparison sites.  We looked at the five cheapest quotes from each site. Despite entering the same details every time, prices varied from £310.28 to £660.20.

In January 2012 Which? Money surveyed 9,197 members of the Which? Online panel about their use of price comparison websites.

Press Release: ,