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Price comparisons: a cautionary tale

When you search on a price comparison website, the search results show you a wide selection of deals from different suppliers. Now, you’d hope that this would include the best deals, wouldn’t you? But it’s not always that simple…

Some of those suppliers pay commission to price comparison sites who generate customers for them. That commission can be £50 or more, and will be included in the price you’re quoted. In other words, you end up paying it. And up until 2015, comparison sites could quietly hide the cheapest deals in favour of ones that earned them a commission.

Then things improved…

In 2015, Ofgem ruled that comparison sites must not try to push these more expensive deals ahead of others that offer better value to customers. So normally those deals will work out as rather expensive, and they’ll tend to be pushed down the list by deals from other suppliers who aren’t paying commission.

But…

In June 2016, the Competition and Markets Authority published a report into the energy industry. One of its recommendations is that this rule should be scrapped so that price comparison websites can once more show you only the deals that pay them a commission.

Not surprisingly, consumer groups have taken a dim view of this! But Ofgem is in favour of it and it looks likely that it will be adopted.

Two recommendations from Livgas

Firstly: shop around. At the very least, try more than one price comparison site.

And secondly, it’s usually smaller suppliers who don’t pay commission and whose deals are most likely to be hidden in future. Don’t overlook good old Google – search for some smaller suppliers and get a direct quote.

We know that shopping around can seem like hard work. In our next post, we’ll give you some great tips that will encourage you to get started!

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