By Daniel Hunter

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has written to 100 leading price comparison websites asking them to ensure they are providing clear information to consumers, after a review published today (Friday) by the OFT suggested that some sites could do more to improve trust amongst the public.

The review says that in general, price comparison websites have represented a major step forward for consumers, enabling them to secure better value when buying goods and services, but that some people are missing out on potential savings because of a lack of trust.

The review also says that the role of such sites is likely to become even more important in the future as online sales continue to grow and initiatives such as the Government's 'midata' project put more information in consumers' hands.

As part of its review, the OFT conducted a websweep of 55 price comparison sites which found that a number of sites could improve their privacy policies and their complaints and redress processes. It also identified scope for some sites to provide greater clarity about the way search results are presented, and clear identification of the business operating the website.

The OFT's 2007 market study into internet shopping estimated that if consumers used price comparison websites as effectively as they could they would stand to gain additional savings of £150m - £240m per year.

"Price comparison websites help busy shoppers find a good deal, but people might not realise that by being a bit savvier they can get even more out of these websites," 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 that 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.

"As companies release more data back to consumers under the Government's 'midata' initiative, there will be new opportunities for people to get better value using price comparison sites, so it's important that issues around consumer trust are tackled now."

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