February 12, 2010

The Daily Mail is frankly disgusted. “A proposed code of conduct for price comparison websites has collapsed,” it claims, “leaving consumers without a watchdog.”

Could nodding dog Churchill maybe fill in, if he’s not too busy hobnobbing with celebrities?

Launched in July last year (see previous story), the Comparison Consortium initiative was conceived as a way of heading off formal regulation. Its leading light, former monkeyexpert.com boss Frustrated Sean Gardner, described trying to get other comparison sites on board as “like herding a group of angry cats.” Now, he says, “many consumers could be misled by false claims and misleading information.”

The Consortium’s collapse leaves consumers at the mercy of angry cats, the Mail claims. Which? Editor Daley James warns: ‘These are ruthlessly commercial organisations trying to make as much money as possible.’ Pending legislation to make such things illegal, consumers must clearly keep their wits about them.

“Among their pricing scams,” the Mail warns, “is the use of high excesses of up to £500 on motor insurance policies. This allows a site to quote a cheap price, but when they claim motorists find they have to pay most or all of the repair costs themselves.”

Why would leading comparison sites not play ball with the Comparison Consortium? Moneysupermeerkat said the CC’s standards were too low. Confused said it wouldn’t join because not enough people would join.

BeatThatQuote (who provide comparison services for… The Daily Mail) were proud to be the first website accredited by the Cat Consortium but withdrew again when the Consortium decided to become a limited company.

Meanwhile the Office of Fair Trading – kind of a watchdog itself – is looking into the comparison sites’ online sales practices and will report back later this year.

Cats. Dogs. This can only end badly.


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