Hive Empire Pty Limited, trading as finder.com.au (Finder), has paid a penalty of $10,800 following the issue of an infringement notice by the ACCC for alleged false or misleading claims about the number of health insurance policies it compares.
The ACCC alleges that between February and May 2017, Finder represented on its website that its health insurance comparison service allowed consumers to “compare roughly 65,000 policies”, when the number of policies compared was substantially less than this.
The ACCC issued the infringement notice because it had reasonable grounds to believe that Finder had breached the Australian Consumer Law.
“The ACCC considered that Finder represented that its health insurance comparison service was more comprehensive than it was. In our view this was misleading and likely to divert consumers away from other online comparison services,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.
Finder has removed the representation from its website.
“Consumers increasingly rely on comparator platforms to inform their choice of insurance provider, particularly when faced with a large range of policy options. Operators of comparator websites must ensure that the claims they make about market and product coverage are accurate so that consumers can make fully informed decisions,” Ms Rickard said.
Finder made the allegedly misleading representation during the period when Australian health funds announce their annual premium “rate rises”. Known as the industry “switch period”, this is the annual peak period when consumers seek to change health insurance policies or insurance providers, often having used online health insurance comparison services.
The ACCC may issue an infringement notice where it has reasonable grounds to believe a person has contravened certain consumer protection provisions of the ACL. The payment of a penalty specified in an infringement notice is not an admission of a contravention of the ACL.
Finder operates an online comparison service at www.finder.com.au, which enables consumers to compare services in a wide range of industries, including insurance services financial services, energy and gas provision, technology and telecommunications, online shopping coupons and deals, travel, and accommodation.
In 2015, the ACCC released consumer and industry guidance on the operation and use of comparator websites.
For tips on purchasing a private health insurance policy or switching providers, go to: http://www.accc.gov.au/consumers/health-home-car/private-health-insurance.