Trade body says regulator should be prepared to use its full range of regulatory tools

Biba is urging the FCA to take firm action to ensure that price comparison websites are complying with its regulatory standards.

The FCA published its thematic review into price comparison sites today, which found that aggregators were failing to meet the regulator’s and customers’ expectations.

The trade association said it was not surprised by the FCA’s findings and added that the regulator should be prepared to use its full same range of regulatory tools, as it does to other parts of the industry.

This ranges from working with firms to improve their approach, getting attestations from senior executives, to potential enforcement action.

Head of compliance and training David Sparkes said: “If someone is basically refusing to deliver good consumer outcomes by following what the FCA wants them to do, we are not saying the FCA should be fining firms, but we are not discouraging them from using whatever tools they have.”

Biba has long pushed for changes to some aggregator practices: how information is presented to consumers, the focus on headline price, making sure the consumer is at the heart of a firm’s business, and a ban on anti-competitive Most Favoured Nation clauses

Chief executive Steve White added: “A level playing field is needed to ensure that consumers receive the same protection wherever they purchase their insurance.”

Aggregator response

GoCompare, which made a significant contribution to the thematic review, said it “remained dedicated” to helping people choose the most appropriate products rather than the cheapest ones”.

The aggregator has teamed up with Defaqto, the independent financial researcher, to integrate additional product information into some of its insurance comparison services, which it says allows customers to compare up to an extra 30 features of cover.

Founder and chief executive Hayley Parsons said: “GoCompare has always strived to show its customers the full story when it comes to insurance comparison, and was the first comparison site to enable its customers to compare the levels of cover, as well as price.”

CompareTheMarket managing director Paul Galligan welcomed the FCA findings and said the aggregator shared the same goal of improving transparency and offering a better service to consumers.

He added: “Price comparison websites show more than just the cheapest price. CompareTheMarket has invested heavily to help consumers make more informed decisions and over 40% of our customers already choose not to buy the cheapest product based on the information we provide.

“Before accepting a quote, we show customers what is and isn’t included in their chosen policy. In order to further help consumers, we are about to launch a peer review system, which gives customers the chance to give feedback on the products they’ve bought.‎”