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Ofcom improves accreditation scheme for price comparison websites
Ofcom yesterday introduced improvements to its voluntary accreditation scheme for price comparison websites, to help consumers when they are choosing a new service or switching.
Price comparison websites can assist consumers when they are choosing communications services – such as broadband, landline telephone and mobile – as well as TV services.
These sites can apply to Ofcom for independent accreditation, which gives assurances to consumers that they are receiving accurate, transparent and comprehensive pricing information.
Better information for consumers
To further improve the accuracy of the information provided to consumers, Ofcom has decided that accredited websites will now face ‘spot checks’ every three months.
Accredited websites must now also update their price comparison data at least every two weeks, down from eight, and have a fair and timely process for handling complaints.
Ofcom is also requiring accredited websites to:
provide information on any data usage limits that apply to the services listed in their comparison search results;
explain that internet traffic management policies may apply and include links to communications providers’ policies where available;
explain that actual and ‘up to’ broadband speeds may vary;
provide tools, or links to tools, for consumers to test the speed of their broadband connection; and
alert consumers that their provider may increase the price of services and packages and that they should be allowed to exit their contract without penalty if this happens.1
Currently, six price comparison websites2 are Ofcom-accredited. These are Mobilife, BillMonitor, BroadbandChoices, Simplify Digital, Broadband.co.uk, and Cable.co.uk.
Claudio Pollack, Ofcom’s Consumer Group Director, said: “The ability to access clear and accurate information on the services they buy is fundamental to consumer choice.
“Consumers can be sure that by using an Ofcom-accredited price comparison service they will be receiving accurate, transparent and comprehensive pricing information to help choose the best deal.”
Today’s changes follow a review of the Price Comparison Website Accreditation Scheme, which generally found it to be working well.
Accredited websites will also carry a new logo so that consumers can recognise their Ofcom-approved status.
NOTES FOR EDITORS
See Ofcom decision on mid-contract price rises for more details.
The six comparison websites accredited by Ofcom are: Mobilife (mobilife.com), BillMonitor (http://www.billmonitor.com), BroadbandChoices (www.broadbandchoices.co.uk), Simplify Digital (www.simplifydigital.co.uk), Broadband.co.uk (http://www.broadband.co.uk/), and Cable.co.uk (http://www.cable.co.uk)
Ofcom wants to ensure that the cost of gaining Ofcom-accreditation is not a barrier to joining the scheme for smaller and not-for-profit websites. Therefore, Ofcom looked at criteria to determine which smaller websites would qualify for a discounted rate. Ofcom decided that not-for-profit sites and those with a turnover of less than £200,000 will be charged £1,000 instead of £11,500 for initial accreditation and £500, instead of £7,000, for subsequent reaccreditation. After the initial accreditation, sites must receive reaccreditation after one year. Following that, they must receive reaccreditation every 18 months. All sites remain subject to spot checks every three months.