Comparison tools criticized for lack of transparency

4/9/2015

Hotels, electronic devices, insurances and cars – almost everything can be compared online these days. But as contradictive as it may sound; a study on behalf of the EU Commission shows problems regarding transparency.

The recent study, which was conducted by Ipsos, London Economics and Deloitte on behalf of the EU Commission, have investigated comparison tools available to European consumers. 1 042 websites and apps are included in the study, out of which 84% were provided by private entrepreneurs.

Comparison platforms and apps are popular among European consumers. 74% use such services on a regular basis, and 40% use them at least once a month. Comparison tools that appear on top of the list at search engines are more likely to be successful than others. Another crucial factor is the possibility to compare prices. For 79% of consumers using comparison tools, the price comparison aspect is the most important.

A lot is hidden from the consumers

Less than half of all examined comparison platforms share information regarding ...

  • ... the mechanism behind their product rankings
  • ... the sources of their data and how often it is updated
  • ... if or what kind of partnerships they have with companies and
  • ... how they are financed.

Furthermore, only 11% of the comparison tools give contact details and 34% state whether they have a complaint handling procedure or to whom consumers with complaints can turn to.

This lack of transparency is a huge deficit in terms of consumer protection. The authors of the study appeal to improve the enforcement of existing EU regulations, like Directive 2005/29/EEC regarding unfair commercial practices or the Consumer Rights Directive, to comparison platforms and apps.