Esure-owned price comparison site Gocompare has been accused of advertising more expensive phone numbers for insurance companies on its website where cheaper or free ones were available.

The website has uses dozens of 084 numbers which charge up to 52p a minute to call – of which Gocompare’s share is 7p per minute, the Sun newspaper has revealed following an investigation.

The Sun obtained 26 online car insurance quotes from Gocompare.

Only one gave the insurer’s own free number. The other quotes were provided with the premium 0843 codes, with no mention of cheaper alternatives.

From a landline the calls would cost up to 18p a minute to ring – including the 7p a minute service charge and an access charge which could be as high as 11p a minute. The access charge goes to the caller’s telephone provider.

To call from a mobile, the costs could go up to 45p a minute for the access charge as well as the 7p a minute service charge, the newspaper added.

A Gocompare spokesman said the site was going to discontinue its use of 0843 numbers.

He said: “Our customers have always been able to use our website for free to compare prices and product features, and clicking through to complete a purchase has never carried a charge.

“As part of our ongoing commitment to improving our customers’ experience, we are currently in the process of changing all 0843 numbers to 03 prefixes, and we expect this update to be completed by the end of July.”

Esure took full control of Gocompare last year, but announced that it was considering a demerger of the insurance comparison site earlier this month as part of a strategic review.

“Now is the right time to review strategic opportunities for the Gocompare business, including a potential demerger, to continue to maximise value for our shareholders,” Esure chairman Peter Wood said when the review was announced.