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26th November 2012

When you go ahead with a debt management plan a set of allowances are made to cover the cost of your expenditure. Cutting your expenditure may therefore allow you to live more comfortably during debt management and to clear your debts sooner. Many people use comparison websites to help them cut costs, but some doubts remain about exactly how such sites operate.

The Office of Fair Trading is concerned that a lack of public trust in the way comparison sites operate might be leading to fewer people benefiting from the convenience and savings that they can offer. Accordingly the OFT has written to many of the biggest comparison websites in the UK asking that they make certain improvements to their offerings.

The OFT letters have arisen from their own study of these sites. They reviewed 55 of them and picked out a number of areas where they felt changes were desirable or necessary. A major example is the way that some sites present a list of results; perhaps not listing them in price order for example. There were also issues of transparency and a lack of effective redress processes.

This isn’t the first time that comparison websites have been in the news this year. Consumer body Which? called for them to be regulated earlier this year after testing certain well-known comparison sites and surveying their own members on the issue. Which? identified examples where it wasn’t clear that a site was providing information that was in the best interests of the consumer and their own membership didn’t appear to have high levels of confidence in the way such sites work.
Nobody appears to be saying that the concept of comparison sites is a bad one. Indeed, it’s estimated that the British public may be saving hundreds a millions of pounds each year thanks to them. What is being suggested is that consumers retain a healthy level of scepticism when suing comparison sites. If you’d like to cut your expenditure during a debt management plan by using comparison sites the following ideas may be helpful:

  • Double-check how results are presented to you. Are they in price order? Sometimes sites focus on different concepts like “popularity” or “relevance” rather than price.

  • Work out who owns the comparison website that you’re visiting. Is there any reason why they might not offer you the best deal? Are they conflicted in any way?

  • Don’t rely on a single comparison website. They don’t all cover all of the service providers. Relying on a single site might mean that you miss a great deal that is available elsewhere.

Debt Management Plan Forum does recommend that visitors use comparison sites to cut their costs, free-up some extra cash, and repay their debts sooner. However, there are still good ways and bad ways to use these types of website. Putting in just a little more time and caution might pay you back handsomely when you’re trying to get the best deals.

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Beverley Budsworth Phil Corfield Debt Management Plan Expert DMP Adviser
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