ACCC Provides Guidance On Comparator Websites
The ACCC stated its recent review of comparator websites was prompted by consumer and business complaints of misleading information being provided to consumers, with the ACCC finding that a number of websites, in particular those comparing energy plans, included information that may mislead consumers.
Misleading information included the extent of the comparison service, the amount of savings that could be achieved and the impartiality of the comparisons.
An ACCC report released in November last year, The Comparator Website Industry in Australia, set out the ACCC’s concerns over a lack of transparency in regards to the:
– Extent of the comparison service, including market coverage.
– Savings achieved by using the comparison service.
– Comparison services being unbiased, impartial or independent.
– Value rankings.
– Undisclosed commercial relationships affecting recommendations to consumers.
– Content and quality assurance of product information.
The consumer guidance released by the ACCC today sets out tips that can assist consumers to understand and benefit from comparator websites, while the industry guidance is targeted at the operators of comparator websites and businesses which have products listed on them.
The consumer guidance includes: making sure consumers know what is being compared, understanding commercial relationships, and knowing what their needs are.
“The consumer guidance offers tips to help consumers get the best outcomes when using comparator websites,” ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard stated. “The industry guidance sets out the standards that the ACCC expects comparator websites to meet.
“Comparator websites can drive competition and assist consumers to make informed purchasing decisions when comparing what are often quite complex products. However, the ACCC is concerned that poor conduct by some industry participants can mislead consumers.”
The industry guidance sets out how industry can comply with competition and consumer protection laws, including setting out three guiding principles of: facilitating honest, like-for-like comparisons, being transparent about commercial relationships, and clearly disclosing who and what is being compared.
“Operators should carefully read this guidance, as there will be no excuse for non-compliance with the Australian Consumer Law, and the ACCC will continue to take action where necessary,” Rickard stated.