The British Insurance Brokers’ Association (BIBA) issued a press release recently (full version here) commenting on the proposed creation of a code of practice for comparison sites. Their stance is that buyers of insurance on comparison sites are not being treated fairly. Treating Customers Fairly (TCF) is a concept created by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) which essentially removes the ability of firms to say ‘well I followed the letter of the law’ – the concept of TCF forces them to consider the spirit of the law as well. It’s about principles rather than rules.
I’ve written before about my distrust of comparison sites (to various different degrees depending on the site) and despite the obvious bias BIBA is bound to have I can’t help but agree with them.
In January 2008, BIBA published market research which showed that:
* Over half of insurance buyers interviewed believe that customers do not fully understand the differences between each insurance policy offered via comparison websites
* 94% of insurance comparison website users do not believe that the details of what the policy covers and does not cover are explained fully
* 84% of insurance buyers said that the details of insurance policies offered via price comparison websites can be confusing
* 93% of consumers believe that insurance comparison websites should be regulated in the same way as insurance intermediaries
* 63% of buyers are nervous about purchasing from comparison websites
* 59% of insurance comparison website users believe that it was not very obvious or not obvious at all who the policy was underwritten by.
Essentially, it could be argued that comparison sites are selling complex financial products and customers need more protection from poor practices that could result in the sale of inappropriate products.