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Consumers Urged Not to Shun Price Comparison Sites
Consumers have been urged not to shun all price comparison websites following claims that some of the biggest players were 'hiding' the best energy deals.
Julian Morgan, Managing Director of the Energy Advice Line, said not all price comparison and switching services were the same and that reputable websites played an extremely valuable role in saving consumers money.
"Consumers would be unwise to avoid using price comparison and switching services altogether because of allegations levelled against just some of the major players," Mr Morgan said.
"Services like the Energy Advice Linedeal in the business sector and are totally upfront about the tariffs they offer and do not operate in the same way as the domestic brands in the UK.
"What's more, OFGEM itself has pointed out that services like ours play an increasingly important role by helping consumers to make well-informed choices.
"Domestic consumers will just need to be careful and opt for a service that is more upfront about which suppliers they can switch to immediately."
Five the UK's largest domestic price comparison and switching services have been accused of unethical behaviour by smaller rival service The Big Deal, which claims they use a mechanism that asks whether they want to switch energy supplier immediately.
The Big Deal claims that if a household customer clicks 'yes' to that question, all the deals that do not earn the company a commission are filtered out. Only if a consumer clicks 'no' are they shown other deals that can be cheaper.
"Business customers who use the Energy Advice Line can rest assured that we only offer deals for which we have agreements with suppliers, unlike some of the domestic services. Our method is based on complete transparency and we do our best to save our customers as much money as possible.
"Suppliers pay us to market and display their prices on our website and we receive this payment once a consumer switches to their new supplier and locks in the saving. These introductory payments are consistent across the suppliers on our panel.
"Because we operate this way, there is no financial incentive for us to advocate one supplier or tariff over another – we simply offer consumers the cheapest most appropriate deal for their needs in order that they keep coming back to use our service."
In response, the price comparison sites at the centre of the accusations said the options displayed on their websites were perfectly clear and that they conformed to the energy regulator's code of practice.
But the regulator has confirmed it is currently investigating changes to the way third party intermediaries (TPI), including price comparison and switching services, operate.
It wants to ensure that new and existing services can innovate and offer a wider range of services, while ensuring that consumers are protected. It also wants to change the existing Confidence Code for domestic consumers to ensure they receive "independent, transparent, accurate and reliable service".
The Energy Advice Line has previously welcomed proposed changes to regulations covering TPIs who deal with business energy customers, saying they will protect business owners and decision makers from unscrupulous sales tactics and rogue energy brokers.
The Energy Advice Line is the UK's leading impartial comparison, switching and advice service for businesses and householders. It actively campaigns for reform of the UK's energy market to boost competition, get consumers a better deal from suppliers and lower energy prices.
The Energy Advice Line's price comparison and switching service is free and completely impartial. Consumers can obtain energy quotes with a few computer strokes based on a diverse panel of energy suppliers including the major players and smaller independent utility companies.