Utilities and communications

Energy comparison sites ordered to offer more options

Price-comparison websites will need to tighten up their behaviour if they want to earn the backing of the regulator.
It follows the outcome of a study into the industry by Ofgem, which will require the sites to meet a higher standard if they want formal accreditation.
Ofgem’s new “gold standard” deals with how gas and electricity tariffs are displayed on the websites. There have been concerns that not all sites display all the best deals, but under the Confidence Code they will have to state which energy companies they get commission from, and highlight which tariffs they benefit from when customers switch.
From a standing start a few years ago, the use of comparison sites has grown significantly, with about 40% of people who switch tariffs using these services.
The existing code – which Ofgem took over from Consumer Focus in 2013 – allows comparison sites to display only those tariffs that paid the sites commission. Other, potentially cheaper, deals are often hidden from consumers.
The changes mean sites will have to prominently display the fact that they will earn commission from any particular switch made by a consumer.
“Our market reforms have made it easier for consumers to pick out better deals and switch suppliers,” said Ofgem’s Rachel Fletcher.
“Comparison sites are a great place to start energy shopping, but customers need to feel confident that the sites are providing information they can trust.”
The new code will come into force at the end of March.