Cutting a path through the comparator website jungle

Article published 14 October 2020

Cutting a path through the comparator website jungle

THERE are plenty of comparator websites these days claiming to allow you to find the best deals on insurance, financial products and products and services generally.

Not all of them are fair-dinkum.

For example, iSelect was fined $8.5 million for pretending its website compared all electricity plans offered by its partner retailers and recommended the most suitable or competitive plan when it didn’t. Also, it recommended plans to almost 5,000 consumers, which ended up costing more than advised. The total price for some plans was up to $140 per quarter higher.

So, use comparator websites with caution. Here are some of the things to keep in mind.

Comparator websites are usually paid for by businesses that are listed. This can influence recommendations but also means that businesses which don’t want to pay don’t get listed.

Sometimes a comparator website only compares the products and services offered by the website owner, not giving competitors a look-in.

Check the site’s privacy policy. Some operators use your information for purposes other than comparing products. Make sure you are comfortable with how your personal information will be used.

Always work out the total cost of what’s on offer. Be aware that these websites may compare the headline price only, with additional fees and charges only disclosed further down the track.

Where available, it is better to use a government comparator website. For example, energymadeeasy.gov.au allows you to compare electricity and gas plans, while NSW and Victoria have their own government-run energy comparator websites.

The Commonwealth Ombudsman operates www.privatehealth.gov.au

The NSW Government runs fuelcheck.nsw.gov.au, which allows you to find the cheapest petrol in your area.

There is greenslips.nsw.gov.au allows you to find the cheapest third-party injury insurance for your car.

Government comparator websites may be a bit harder to find, but they are better than the commercial comparator websites. No comparison, really.

In fact, governments could lift their performance in the area of consumer protection by setting up more of these comparator websites, particularly for financial products and services.

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