The Dirty Secret Behind Comparison Sites

February 2, 2015 Updated: April 23, 2016

Comparison websites promise to help you find the best deals on everything from groceries to fashion, airfares and credit cards but what you see is not exactly what you get. While it is true that these services offer comparisons for a range of brands and products, they actually make money off commissions from the very companies they include in their lists.

What this means for consumers is that the information on comparison sites is biased to some extent. At best, the bias only goes as far as what products are listed (those that don’t pay, don’t get listed). At worst, the bias could push products onto you regardless of whether or not they are right for you.

Websites are also clever about how they phrase their services and offerings. In 2014, for example, health fund advertising for Australian website Compare The Market claimed: “We now compare more health funds than any other website in Australia.” The site’s marketing also said you could “compare more health funds than anywhere else”.

But the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) found that there were at least two other websites that compared more products and services. It warned consumers that commercial comparison sites “generally only compare a selection of policies from a range of private health insurers” based on financial deals with these companies.

The same goes for comparison websites that look at other products, and not just in Australia either. The same commission-based structure is used for commercial comparison websites in the US, UK and all around the world.

Even those that say they are “completely independent” typically rely on commissions based on what products you select. That’s actually one of the reasons why so many of these sites then redirect you to the actual product’s homepage.

Changing the commission-based system

Despite potential corruption based on the commission-based system used by these websites, comparison services still have the potential to help you get a better deal. So how do you get the benefits of a comparison without falling prey to the marketing tricks some of these sites use?

Under the current structure of these sites, it’s a matter of looking at all the results and finding the one best suited to you – or even doing the same search on several comparison websites. But new Australian service Quid has a better way.

The soon-to-launch comparison website is getting rid of the commission-based structure completely and offering a service totally focused on consumers’ best interests. Fed up with the way comparison sites currently work, Quid says it will “define a new era in online comparison. Unbiased, transparent and unique.”

“Everyone wants to get the best deal out there and comparing is the way to go. The problem is that many sites are biased towards brands that pay them more money,” it says.

“Quid changes the game – giving you total control to save you time and money.”

With a commitment to listing all of the products – and no commissions to bias the results, Quid could change the comparison website industry not just in Australia, but all around the world.