Keep price comparison sites transparent about energy deals, say MPs
Published: 21 Jul 2016 By Grace Kimberley
Until today, it seemed that price comparisons sites were to start concealing energy deals that will not generate them commission. The purpose of this plan is to make the market a fairer place for these websites and help them successfully sign off more deals with consumers. However, MP’s have recently warned that this could diminish consumer trust in price comparison sites and disallow the market to be increasingly competitive.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) reported that these price comparison websites shouldn’t be forced to show every single tariff on the market and should be able to tactfully decide which deals they show on their sites. MP’s on the energy and climate change committee have stated that this may “undermine consumer trust and disadvantage smaller suppliers, harming competition”.
Greg Clark, the recently elected business and energy secretary received a letter from committee chairman Angus MacNeil in which he requests that Clark rejects “retrograde step” of enabling sites to hide certain deals where they do not benefit from commission.
Mr MacNeil said: “Price comparison websites must do what they say on the tin. Consumers expect price comparison sites to shine a light on the whole market, not keep them in the dark and push them into commission earning deals.”
Changes of the opposite were only made to the system last year, due to there being concern that some price comparison sites may be deceiving customers into picking options that the sites could benefit from in terms of commission. The CMA believes that these websites should be able to select their own choices of display, which in turn they say will generate more competition and allow the companies to operate exclusive offers to suppliers and consumers. The CMA also argues that this will be completely legitimate, as the price comparers will display that they are not listing every single deal on the market.
This is bad news for small suppliers, who experience huge struggle as it is to compare with energy companies like ‘The Big Six’ as it will mean they will have to start paying commission for appearing on these sites. At present, they are allowed to advertise on price comparison websites free of charge, allowing them to spend budget on other aspects of their business.
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