By Daniel Hunter
A new Which? investigation has revealed why it's important to treat results from price comparison sites with care and how customer satisfaction in the sector compares poorly to other industries.
The results from our latest investigation has found that customer satisfaction for price comparison websites is low when compared to other personal finance sectors rated by Which?. We found that only a third (32%) of members say they trust price comparison sites to find the best price, regardless of the supplier.
We put this to the test by looking for the cheapest quote from different sites for the same high risk car insurance scenario, and found it can differ by more than £1,500.
We asked more than 6,000 Which? members to rate eleven of the biggest names in price comparison sites. MoneyExpert.com andMoneyFacts.com were ranked the highest but their customer satisfaction scores were just 46%. This is low when compared with many other areas of personal finance rated by Which?. For example, our top rated car insurance provider has a customer score of 82%.
MoneyExtra.com was the lowest ranking comparison site with a customer score of 28%, receiving only two star ratings for all categories. Market leader MoneySupermarket.com, which had an annual turnover in 2012 of £204.8m, was ranked fourth in our table.
Our survey found that Which? members who use comparison sites visit an average of two sites before making a decision and one in eight(13%) feel the need to visit four or more sites to get the best price.
We also compared five like-for-like car insurance quotes on ten comparison websites and found that we rarely got the same results. In one high-risk scenario of insuring a 22-year-old driver living in a high-risk area, we found a difference of more than £1,500 when looking at the cheapest quotes on each site. GoCompare.com, TescoCompare.com and MoneySupermarket.com had the cheapest price at £751.25, with MoneyExpert.com being the most expensive, quoting us £2,280.70. Even for one of our low-risk scenarios, the cheapest quotes varied by more than £150 between sites.
With the prices quoted varying so widely between the different comparison sites for the same scenario, it is always advisable to shop around as not all will cover the whole of the market.
For example, our research showed MoneySupermarket.com leads on coverage with 120 insurers out of an estimated 230 brands in the market, whereas LoveMoney.com and MoneyExpert.com cover more like 10% of the market by number of brands. This could help to explain why MoneyExpert.com was unable to compete on price in our high-risk scenario.
Consumers need to be aware that the cheapest price is not the only thing to consider, as in our investigation we didn't want to pay a voluntary excess but found that some of the sites automatically preselect an excess. Six of the sites we looked at did this during the quote process (Comparethemarket.com, Confused.com, GoCompare.com, TescoCompare.com, Moneyexpert.com and Uswitch.com),while MoneySupermarket.com automatically gives you results with a preselected excess before you can change it. If we weren't paying close attention we could have ended up with a policy that didn't meet our needs.
Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, says: "We've found that many people just don't trust comparison sites to get them the best deal and from the results of our research it looks like they are right to be sceptical.
"Price comparison sites claim to do all of the work for you but we found they don't always guarantee people the best deal, or even the right one.
"We want comparison sites to treat customers fairly by being upfront that they don't cover the whole market and more transparent about what is and isn't included in the policies they're selling."
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