Comparator websites compare products offered by a range of suppliers and frequently include multiple products offered by the same supplier. Comparator websites can be a useful tool, but make sure you know how these sites work before relying on a comparison.
- Save you time in researching and comparing offers for products or services by displaying relevant results on a single website.
- Enable you to compare offers for products that are often quite complex or involve a long-term investment (e.g. health insurance, energy or telecommunications offers).
- Find products or services that suit your preferences.
- Help you switch from one service provider to another with relative ease.
When you shop online, you have the same rights as you have when you buy in a store. You have the right to expect:
- truthful and accurate representations, statements or claims
- all the necessary and important information that you need
- transparent disclosure of commercial relationships.
Comparator website operators may be considered misleading if they omit to display (or incorrectly display) relevant information and are not transparent about commercial relationships.
- Know what is being compared. Comparator websites may not compare all the offers or products in the market. Check what’s on offer across a range of comparator sites.
- Check if there’s a commercial relationship. Comparator website operators may have commercial relationships with or receive financial inducements from listed businesses that can influence recommendations.
- Identify the site owner. Sometimes a comparator website is owned and operated by the same business that owns the products being compared. Check that the website tells you the identity of the business that owns and operates it.
- Work out what you need. Before you start searching, work out what non-price factors are important to you. When searching, make sure the search fields are tailored to meet your needs. Where the option is provided, consider ranking by ‘benefits’ or ‘value’ rather than by ‘price’.
- Check offer availability. Comparator website operators allow service providers to add or remove offers in a number of ways (e.g. placing restrictions on how many products can be sold in a month). A product that was available yesterday may no longer be available today. Check whether the offer is available on the service provider’s website.
- Double-check what’s covered. Product classification can vary between service providers (e.g. reconstructive surgery may also be classified as cosmetic surgery). When you receive your results, take a closer look at what is and is not covered. You may need to check the service providers’ own websites for the full details.
- Work out the total cost. Be aware that these websites may compare the headline price only, with additional fees and charges only disclosed further down the track. The lowest headline price may not always equate to the lowest final price.
- Keep a record of any telephone calls. If you speak to a call centre operator, make sure you follow the above tips, don’t be pressured into making a quick decision, and ask for written confirmation of any offers.
There are a number of comparator websites operated by government agencies. These websites are designed to provide consumers with industry-wide information and they are free of charge.
Often businesses are required by law to provide information to these websites which makes them comprehensive.
- Energy - a number of states operate energy comparison websites and the Australian Energy Regulator operates www.energymadeeasy.gov.au.
- Health - the Commonwealth Ombudsman operates www.privatehealth.gov.au.
If you think you’ve been misled by a comparator website or its call centre staff, tell us about it.