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FCA reviews Google’s price comparison service

The FCA is monitoring Google’s price comparison service amid concerns the search engine giant is using anti-competitive measures against rival comparison sites.

The Telegraph reports the regulator has taken an interest in Google as part of a wider review of the price comparison industry.

In November, the FCA launched a thematic review into price comparison sites selling general insurance products.

The review is looking at whether websites’ focus on price means consumers are failing to get the best deal for their needs, and the findings are due to be published this autumn. 

Google runs comparison services for car and travel insurance, credit cards, mortgages and bank accounts in the UK following its acquisition of BeatThatQuote.com in 2011.

According to the Telegraph, major comparison sites have become increasingly worried that Google’s own services have undue prominence in search results.

As a result of an EU competition investigation, Google has offered to change the way it displays search results to give alternative providers greater prominence. However, complainants have become frustrated with the pace of change and believe the FCA could act more quickly.

Google and the FCA declined to comment.

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Comments

There are 3 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. In reality, competition is normally good for the consumer but slightly off the track here, shouldn’t any site that ‘tabulates’ in any structured order a list of mortgage’s (rates/ lender) be subject to the advice rules of MMR? and as such have to fully comply with knowing the clients, affordability and suitability checks and assessment?
    Perhaps this point has been lost by the regulators who still fail to see that mortgage comparisons on such sites are even more misleading than ever before under the new affordability models and wider variations of lender criteria….
    How many people have to submit failed applications to lenders because of the rate hunt suggested by comparison sites?

  2. Cathryn Barns 5th June 2014 at 4:41 pm

    Firstly, let me state that to be on the internet you really have to be on Google. Of course there are competitors but Google owns the largest market share (for search) in almost all US/EU markets (or in Spain, almost 99%).

    Comparison sites spend an absolute fortune advertising on Google, they hand over tens of thousands of pounds per week and have to ensure that the traffic converts. Google’s decision to list tables on their SERP (Search Engine Results Page) for finance and travel, has sent major players into a tail spin. Not only are Google working directly with the companies they already compare but they have the advantage of picking and choosing the best traffic, have no cost to advertise (except the loss of other advertisers), can place their ads ahead of all others and, with their sheer amount of traffic, are able to secure the most lucrative deals (affiliate basis).

    As an example, if you’re a flight comparison site like cheapflights.co.uk, compareflights.co.uk or skyscanner.net, you’re now receiving less traffic, having to pay more to sit in the same position on the SERP (as Google are in top spot pushing you down).

    Google want to become the one stop shop for the internet and they are succeeding. I left a company that offered a great product but when Google offered a lesser alternative for free that business dried up overnight. Google will say it’s just good business but imagine the impact as they attempt to absorb the business of every middleman. Sad times.

  3. A very useful insight Cathryn. It is very sad times to see such a monopoly allowed to spread seemingly unchecked.
    There is still the old adage though: The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low cost has been forgotten.
    In addition, freebies aren’t free. There is a cost (usually hidden) to getting something for free…..
    Lets hope quality, care and profitable business prevails.

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