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Ofcom makes accreditation tougher - and we couldn't be happier

Wednesday, November 6th 2013 by Dean Reilly
There’s an absolute ton of comparison sites out there that claim to find you the right deal on your broadband, TV and phone. But the reality is, it is so easy to set up a site, you’d be forgiven for wondering if you can trust the information you’re given.

The Ofcom accreditation logo means comparison sites must provide consumers with accurate and transparent information. That’s why it’s so good to hear Ofcom is strengthening the criteria comparison sites like ours have to meet to get - and then keep hold of - this accreditation.

Fortunately, consumers can keep an eye open for Ofcom accreditation, where the communications regulator confirms that the advice a particular site is offering is impartial, fair, accurate and up-to-date. That’s why it’s so good to hear that Ofcom are toughening up on the criteria comparison sites like ours have to meet to get or keep this accreditation.

How things have changed

Prior to the changes Ofcom announced on November 6th 2013, accredited comparison sites that provide summaries of information about fixed-line, mobile, broadband, television services had to be accessible, provide a free service to consumers, keep their data accurate and up to date, be transparent and fully independent of any provider.

To make sure standards were kept high, Ofcom would check in on the price comparison service at the one year anniversary, and then every 18 months thereafter. We happily ticked those boxes, and became one of only six sites in the UK to get accreditation. We wore the badge with pride – and still do.

Now, the steps needed to earn or keep accreditation have changed. Naturally, Ofcom doesn’t cover all comparison sites, like the ones that advise on insurance, utility bills and so on (we leave that sort of thing to talking meerkats and Welsh opera singers), but when it comes to broadband, TV and phone price comparison services , here’s what we need to do now:

  • provide information about any limits on data usage that apply to services identified in comparison searches;
  • explain that traffic management policies may apply and provide links to communications providers' policies where available;
  • provide 'up to' broadband speeds for fixed broadband packages and explain that actual broadband speeds experienced may vary;
  • provide general information on, and a link to, Ofcom's work on broadband speeds;
  • provide tools, or links to tools, for consumers to test the speed of their line;
  • alert consumers that their provider may increase the cost of their monthly deal and that they should be allowed to exit their contract without penalty if this happens;
  • link to Ofcom's comparative information on customer service and complaints handling, including regular information on the complaints received by Ofcom;
  • and update data used to calculate price comparisons at least every two weeks.

All very reasonable. To be even more transparent, Ofcom has decided that it will introduce 'spot-checks' to make sure comparison services comply with the new criteria. In essence, sites like ours must be able to prove they’re accessible, accurate, transparent, comprehensive and up to date rather than just say so.

What this means for you

The new Ofcom criteria mean that price comparison sites need to be even more on top of the information they’re sharing with the public than ever before – and rightly so. If a visitor to a site is going to spend any amount of money with a provider based on the information we or another site provide, it’s only right that it’s… well, right.

To be sure that the information you're getting is as up to date and accurate as possible, and being provided by an accredited source, you just need to look out for the Ofcom Price Accreditation Scheme logo. You’ll see this prominently displayed on our website.

Once you’ve seen it, you can relax and get on with the serious business of finding the best possible broadband, TV or phone package for you. And while you’re doing that, we’ll be working hard behind the scenes to make sure our service identifies the right deal for you, based on your needs – not ours.

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