Expats shopping online may be shocked to know that some price comparison web sites tempt them to buy with some shady tactics.
Most online shoppers believe price comparison sites help them find the best priced deal to suit their personal circumstances, but this is not always the case.
Popular financial products expats buy online include offshore savings accounts, life insurance and private medical cover.
Here, we reveal five tricks played on shoppers by some unscrupulous price comparison web sites to encourage them to buy.
Online shopping tricks
Not all price comparison web sites deliver a poor deal to customers – but these are some of the points to watch:
- Limited providers – Expats would be wrong to believe every price comparison web site covers the whole of the market. Few offer every product from every provider, so it is possible going direct or comparing prices on more than one site will return a better price
- Tie-in deals – Some of the largest price comparison web sites have so much financial clout with suppliers that they have contracts that bar the provider from offering the same product at a cheaper price direct to customers.
- Masked ownership – Some providers set up online price comparison sites under different brands to generate leads for sales of their products
- Shared sales staff – Some online shopping sites route their calls to the same call centre staff who answer the phones under different company names. Try buying electrical goods like a washing machine in the UK – if the item is out of stock on one site, the chance is other shopping sites won’t have it either. That’s because the appliance comes from a central warehouse shared by several online web sites.
- Suspect reviews – Some price comparison web sites buy reviews and comments from agencies to populate their web sites with favourable remarks
Consumer groups and financial regulators are starting to recognise that some price comparison web sites are operating beyond acceptable rules and are representing ‘best buys’ that are really not.
Points to watch
Although shoppers may believe search results are crafted to match their personal preferences, many comparison sites focus on price rather than suitability of products, they say.
For instance, consumer group Which? suggests watching out for assumptions and pre-ticked boxes when buying insurance. Not ticking the right boxes or giving the right information from the start could invalidate a policy.