They’re meant to help people find the best deal by showing different energy tariffs next to each other.
But online price comparison sites were accused of hiding the cheapest tariffs from customers today, in favour of deals which will give themselves a cut.
The owners of rival energy business The Big Deal – which lets people club together on domestic energy deals – made the claim in an open letter which set out its 13 weeks’ research.
It pointed the finger at sites including uSwitch, meerkat-lovers Compare the Market, Go Compare (of the opera singer fame), Money Supermarket whose ads currently feature rapper Snoop Dogg, as well as Confused.com.
The largest energy switching site uSwitch was accused of “never” showing the cheapest deal and “regularly” hiding three out of the top five cheapest deals.
Defending itself, uSwitch said its results tables “are always ordered by the savings a customer can make in a fair, independent and unbiased way”, adding it is fully accredited under the regulator Ofgem’s Confidence Code.
The Big Deal also claimed clicking ‘Yes’ on some sites “filters out all deals which do not earn the price comparison site a commission from the energy company. Often these deals are the cheapest.”
It said Money Supermarket and Confused “pre-fill” this question ‘Yes’.
Kate Rose, Head of Energy at Confused.com said they are “committed to transparency in everything we do”, adding: “Some suppliers do not make certain tariffs available through comparison sites, so we give customers the option to exclude these from the results.”
However one site hit back and claimed the Big Deal was cherry-picking information to suit a good headline and pointed out the Big Deal also makes money by getting paid a commission.
Go Compare slammed the “highly orchestrated PR campaign being run by a company with a vested interest in moving customers away from comparison sites to their own collective switching model”.
Energy watchdog Ofgem said it was changing its Confidence Code to “push price comparison sites to higher standards of reliable information… And we’re proposing tougher new rules to the code to make commission arrangements clearer”.
It is currently mulling whether to include price comparison sites in its move to regulate third party intermediaries (TPIs) with a separate code of conduct.