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Competition watchdog to investigate broadband comparison websites

Thursday, September 29th 2016 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is to study the way broadband comparison websites work.

The watchdog wants to make sure consumers are getting the best possible deals, while reducing any barriers to how these sites work.

It will also be looking at concerns it has about arrangements made between comparison sites and providers – and the impact these may have on competition – and whether consumers should be made more aware of how sites make their money.

The CMA will be exploring the role of comparison sites in the home insurance, credit card and flight sectors as well as broadband.

Andrea Coscelli, the authority’s acting chief executive, said: “Digital comparison tools have played a big part in changing markets for the better, bringing new ways of doing things and forcing businesses to up their game.

“Consumers have benefited as choice and access to goods and services have grown.”

Mr Coscelli said the emergence of price comparison websites around a decade ago has helped “inject significant competition” into a number of markets but has been more successful in some industries than others.

“We want to understand why this is the case and whether more can be done to ensure consumers and businesses can benefit from them more widely,” he said.

“Some people have also raised concerns about certain issues, including whether consumers can trust the information that’s available, and the study will look at these issues too.”

The CMA said its study will look at the impact of comparison tools on competition between the providers listed on them.

It will also look at what consumers expect from comparison websites and how they use them, how effectively comparison websites compete with each other, and the effectiveness of existing regulation.

The CMA is inviting views on any issues raised by its study by 5pm on 24 October 2016, and must announce within six months whether it is going to refer the market for a more in-depth investigation.

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