James Daley: Help us clean up the comparison sites

Financial comparison websites have been getting away with murder over the past few years. They now account for more than half of all motor-insurance policy sales, and are selling an increasing proportion of many other financial products, but they remain completely unregulated.

Although they have admittedly helped millions of consumers to get a better deal on their utility bills and numerous financial services products, there is still an awful lot of bad practice that goes unpunished.

At the end of last month, however, the Financial Services Authority finally agreed to take a look at the industry after the insurance brokers' trade body (Biba) called for the sites to be regulated. The brokers – quite understandably – feel aggrieved that not only have these upstarts been busy stealing their business over the past few years, but they have managed it with a fraction of the paperwork.

However, there are also some serious concerns about consumer protection. As Biba's own research showed, many consumers are not clear on the differences between the policies they are offered on these sites and, in many cases, they are at risk of buying policies that do not really suit their needs. And they won't find out about it until it's too late – and a claim is turned down.

My personal problem with comparison sites is the amount of misleading and inaccurate information. While sites such as moneysupermarket.com and uswitch.com like to talk about their integrity and independence, the truth is that these are hard-nosed businesses under pressure to continue increasing their profits, by whatever means necessary.

Take a look at uSwitch's credit cards and loans pages, for example, which give you a list of "our top deals". Unsuspecting consumers could be forgiven for thinking that these were indeed the best deals on the site, when in fact they are simply the best deals with which these websites have commercial agreements. Carry out a full search and you're unlikely to find that their "top deals" come out on top. Or how about Moneysupermarket, which claims to offer you the chance to "compare over 550 online private medical insurance policies" and "over 100 car breakdown policies". In fact, you'll only find around six providers showing up in its medical insurance searches, and around eight on its car breakdown comparisons. Sure, you may be able to compare 550 policies, but if 100 of them are from the same provider, how much difference will there really be?

This kind of bad practice is rife. Moneysupermarket used to use the same trick on its pet insurance channel, but changed it after Save & Spend kept writing about it – which just goes to show that our pressure can make a difference.

And that's why we're starting a new campaign. As of today, you'll be able to find a new personal finance blog on the internet – Cash Crusader) – where we intend to keep highlighting all the bad practice we see on the comparison sites (and elsewhere in the financial services business). If you spot anything suspicious yourself, why not write a comment on the blog to let us know?

Until the FSA steps up to the task of regulating comparison sites itself, it's up to the rest of us to help keep them clean.

* I was impressed by the flood of passionate emails in defence of cheques last week (some of which we've printed below), and I concede that there are instances in which they can still be useful. Fear not; Save & Spend has no intention of campaigning for their extinction, and I doubt that it will happen any time soon.

What is more likely, however, is that the banks soon start to charge for cashing cheques – fees that we in the UK have been lucky not to have to pay so far. In most other countries, such charges are already commonplace.

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

News
people
News
people And here is why...
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsWelsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
peopleAt the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Real Staffing

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Real Staffing are currently lo...

    Trust Accountant - Kent

    NEGOTIABLE: Austen Lloyd: TRUST ACCOUNTANT - KENTIf you are a Chartered Accou...

    Graduate Recruitment Consultant - 2013/14 Grads - No Exp Needed

    £18000 - £20000 per annum + OTE £30000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 b...

    Law Costs

    Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - Law Costs Draftsperson - NICHE...

    Day In a Page

    Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

    Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

    A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
    Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

    Time to stop running

    At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
    An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

    An app for the amorous

    Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

    Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
    She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

    She's having a laugh

    Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

    Let there be light

    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
    Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

    Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

    Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
    Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

    A look to the future

    It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
    The 10 best bedspreads

    The 10 best bedspreads

    Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
    Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

    Arsenal vs Galatasaray

    Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
    Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence