Insights Ofcom publishes changes to its voluntary accreditation scheme for price comparison websites

Ofcom says that it believes all telephone, broadband and pay-TV customers should get a fair deal, and it wants customers to “shop around with confidence, make informed choices and get the right deal for their needs”. Ofcom says that comparison tools, such as price comparison websites, “provide a valuable service for people navigating the broad range of telephone, broadband and pay-TV products available today”.

Currently, Ofcom operates a voluntary accreditation scheme that comparison tools can join, provided they meet certain standards. Ofcom has now published its final decision on how it will amend the scheme, so it continues to benefit customers and to ensure compliance with new European legislation.

Ofcom explains that the European Electronic Communications Code (EECC) requires it to make sure the information provided by accredited comparison tools is trustworthy, impartial and transparent. To meet these requirements, Ofcom has revised the criteria it uses to determine membership. To be eligible for membership of the scheme, comparison tools must:

  • provide users with information on the quality of services they compare;
  • make clear who owns them and be independent from the providers whose services are being compared, to ensure unbiased search results;
  • set out clear and objective criteria on which comparisons are based;
  • deliver services to a high standard and comply with relevant legislation;
  • provide information that is accurate, accessible and up to date, and present that information in plain and clear language;
  • show offers covering a significant proportion of the market and be open to any provider that wishes to make their products available for comparison; and
  • have effective procedures in place to handle consumer complaints and to allow users to report incorrect information.

Ofcom says that its changes will “simplify the existing accreditation process by removing some of the more prescriptive requirements”. This approach will “help ensure the scheme is better placed to adapt to a changing digital environment and enable accredited tools to innovate, for example by allowing new ways of presenting search results to users”. The new scheme criteria will take effect from 30 April 2021. For further information, click here.