Aggregator site backs down on charging insurer for panel presence
An ongoing battle between insurers and aggregators has come to a head after Norwich Union (NU) forced Confused.com into a massive climb-down over charging companies fees to appear on its panel.
The dispute began after NU said it disagreed with Confused.com charging monthly fees of £7,500 to £15,000. But Insurance Times has learned that Confused.com has backed down and agreed to continue to charge the insurer on a strictly commission basis.
Aggregator sites have come under fire recently from some insurers such as Direct Line, which sparked a war of words after commissioning a study that revealed 93% of those who use comparison sites believe they should carry warnings about their accuracy.
James Davey, NU eChannel marketing and partnerships manager, said the insurer was very happy with the resolution.
“We did dispute the cost and we’re very happy now that we’re in the position with Confused that the tenancy fee is not included in further negotiations. I’m sure there are a number of other larger insurers who will have applied the same pressure as us,” he said.
Jennifer Rose, of Confused.com, said the turnabout had nothing to do with transparency concerns but came after some clients such as NU objected to paying the fees.
She said Confused.com decided to renegotiate all contracts on an individual basis, with some insurers continuing to pay only commission and others paying an additional monthly fee.
“The fees are based on the amount of business they are generating. The more quotes, the less fee they will pay,” she said.
Rose said the fees were a way to ensure Confused.com still made money even if insurers failed to land any sales.
“For some companies we send loads of customers their way and spend loads of money on advertising, but if they’re not making any sales, we don’t make any money,” she said. "At the end of the day we have a business to run."
Richard Mason, director of insurance at moneysupermarket.com, said he doesn’t blame Confused.com for introducing fees and that it should serve as a wake up call for larger companies to streamline business.
He said Norwich Union struggles to compete on aggregator sites because its rates are higher due to massive overhead costs.
“Insurance companies have relied on inertia and ignorance for far too long,” he said.
Moneysupermarket.com has also had its own recent dispute with Norwich Union after the insurer pulled its motor line off the panel citing concerns over customer type and retention.
However, not all aggregators are on side. In the ongoing battle for transparency, Hayley Parsons, managing director of Gocompare.com, said introducing fees is outrageous.
She said: “When there’s more competition coming into the market such as Tescoe.com, I think it’s a crazy time to introduce fees. Surely it’s not treating customers fairly.” A spokesman for Confused.com added: "Our commission and fees are transparent to customers."