OFT readies price comparison probe

The Office of Fair Trading is readying an investigation into allegations of misleading advertising and unclear prices on comparison websites.

OFT

The OFT will launch an in-depth probe into some price comparison sites following a consultation with industry and consumer groups that ended on 18 September, according to a report in The Observer.

Sites that compare a range of items are set to come under scrutiny including the advertising practices of sites that compare financial products.

Financial sites have already been investigated by the Financial Services Authority, which last year ruled against a number of firms after finding several depressed the price of initial quotes.

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) also recently launched a wider investigation into “misleading” advertising and pricing both on and off-line.

Price comparison sites have registered an increase in traffic from consumers looking to cut household spending in wake of the recession.

Many have launched major marketing campaigns to gain or hold market share.

Comparethemarket.com’s ‘Comparethemeerkat’ campaign, launched in January, has proven popular, boosting market share, traffic and sales.

The site has enjoyed a189% rise in sales since September, while traffic increased 200% year on year in the second quarter.

The success of the Meerkat campaign has prompted others into action with rival GoCompare recently launching its own character-led campaign starring the opera-singing Gio Compario.

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