There are a huge number of price comparison sites available in the UK. They will all claim to be able to provide the best possible deal for you. But how do you know which of them you can really trust?
For the websites, offering to compare deals can bring profit. This is why you will see and hear plenty of comparison adverts on TV and radio. For the customers, they can offer the best way to save money on bills. This is why more and more people are taking advantage of switching services.
Being able to compare a large number of energy deals quickly and online has helped many households in the UK. It has been very helpful for the smaller suppliers that customers may not have considered in the past. Overall, this is great news for consumers as more competition usually means lower bills.
Along with the benefits they can bring, these websites have taken a fair share of criticism. This is usually as a result of ‘unfair tactics’ used by energy suppliers.
The energy suppliers can pay a fee to the website in order to have its energy quotes shown at the top of any comparison list. When this happens, value for money is not taken into account and customers can end up paying more. Giving paid energy quotes a better position in these lists does not help with consumer confidence. It has the potential to hurt competition due to the bigger companies being able to offer bigger fees to these websites. Those bigger fees would lead to better placement and a bigger share of the market. To try and even the field, OFGEM offers accreditation to websites that sign up to its code of conduct.
Benefits of OFGEM accreditation
OFGEM is the regulator of the gas and electricity industry. With its position of authority over the market, getting a seal of approval from OFGEM helps to build trust.
To get accreditation, websites need to sign up to a voluntary code of conduct. The Confidence Code is the OFGEM standard that websites must sign up to for accreditation. Any website that has signed up will be able to display a logo which shows that it complies with the code.
All websites that carry accreditation will need to follow a number of principles:
They will help you to find the best deal for you in your local area, provide a free and easy to use switching service, provide detailed information on available tariffs (which must include gas and electricity KWh prices), and show any discounts which are available.
The main benefit for the website is that a seal of approval from the sector regulator improves trust. Knowing that a service provider has voluntarily signed up to a code which aims to protect the consumer will always be viewed positively. For the customer, seeing the code logo shows that the best deals are not being hidden. These clear, simple to understand principles help to build trust.
Which companies carry OFGEM accreditation?
There are currently 11 switching websites on this list. They are: Energy Helpline, Energylinx, The Energy Shop, Money Supermarket, My Utility Genius, Runpath, Switch Gas and Electric, Quotezone, Unravel It and Uswitch.
Any comparison website is eligible to join this list and OFGEM hopes that more websites sign up to the Confidence Code. A promise by the website to act in the best interest of its customers is a good thing. As well as that, if all suppliers get a fair chance of its deals being on each of these lists, then competition will increase. When competition increases between the suppliers, that tends to mean lower costs for the consumer.
Note: As of 2017, OFGEM decided to remove a need to show the whole of the market on each of these lists. This means that websites are able to exclude any suppliers that it does not deal with. Each list may not be comparing every energy supplier on the market.
What if I wish to complain about a comparison site?
All OFGEM accredited comparison websites must have an effective complaints process. They are obliged to make sure that finding the complaints section of the website is easy.
They must try to resolve any complaint that you have. If you find that the response has been below the standard that you expect or that it is not helpful, you can contact OFGEM directly. They will then contact the website and help to find a solution.