OFT looks into fake price comparison sites

oLast December saw an enormous price spike in oil heating bills and this has meant that consumers have been shopping around for a better deal. This has lead to some companies taking advantage of them and the Office of Fair Trading has recently stepped in. Some suppliers have been taking advantage of the popularity of price comparison websites by creating fake ones which list their price as the best. The OFT has told three such firms to cease this practice.

Prices have, since December, declined, but the cost of oil is still very high and people are finding that it is still very costly to fill their oil tanks. Indeed, rural crime figures reflect this high price, as the number one crime in rural areas has now become the siphoning off of oil during the night.

WCF are one of the companies named by the OFT and were found to have only their own products listed on the ‘comparison’ site. They were also found to have fake customer testimonials. Clive Maxwell, executive director at the OFT has said, “We want customers to be able to find the cheapest prices, not just be duped into thinking they have by these misleading websites. We are working hard to make sure that the relationships between the oil providers and the comparison websites are clear. It is also essential that these websites state how many products they are comparing. The enforcements we have made will ensure people can find the lowest price.”

Adam Scorer is a spokesperson for Consumer Focus and has said, “We welcome this action. Last year heating a home with oil became very expensive and it has remained a more expensive way to heat your home than to use gas. This will allow people to find the cheapest way to keep warm this winter.”

The OFT has also recently launched a similar investigation into insurance providers for cars. The OFT suspects that the relationships between the comparison sites and the insurers are a little to close. Oil customers are not the only ones facing price hikes as the price of gas has also recently seen a dramatic increase.