Which electricity provider is cheap? Where can I find a cellular or DSL tariff that suits me? Which liability insurance has the best price-performance ratio and which providers make the best holiday offers? Users rely on Internet comparison portals to answer these questions.
Check24, Verivox and Co. are currently promoting the fact that consumers can cancel their car insurance by the end of November and, in addition to making comparisons, also offer the option of changing provider. What sounds extremely consumer-friendly at first, however, has some pitfalls.
“The supposedly free comparison is mostly financed by the providers’ commission for the conclusion of contracts,” explains Kathrin Körber, legal expert at the Lower Saxony consumer center. “The portals only earn money if contracts are concluded through them. And best of all with the provider who pays the highest commission, ”she adds.
Comparison portals pursue “business model full of false incentives”
That means two things at once: On the one hand, the various companies are under pressure to appear as high up as possible in the search results displayed. Providers who land in the lower places have little chance of winning customers via the respective portal. On the other hand, consumers are not always displayed – as expected – completely independent results, but only offers from companies that have concluded a contract with the portal.
The insurer HUK Coburg, for example, has been in conflict with Check24 for some time. Among other things, HUK Coburg complained in 2019 that Check24 had advertised with a “nowhere cheaper guarantee”. The district court of Cologne agreed with the Franconian insurer this spring: HUK Coburg pointed out that this creates the impression that car insurance is nowhere else cheaper. However, the insurance rates are often cheaper, but not to be concluded via Check24 because the HUK Coburg does not want to pay the portal any commission.
The consumer advice center therefore speaks of “a business model full of false incentives that invites lack of transparency and false promises.” There would always be complaints from customers who, for example, do not receive promised premiums or bonuses, are surprised by additional costs or are left alone with contractual problems.
Comparison portals: The first search results are not always the cheapest
Consumer advocate Körber therefore emphasizes: “The portals offer the opportunity to get an initial overview of the market and to compare prices and services. However, it is important to know tricks and pitfalls and to make the right presettings. ”
A current survey carried out on behalf of the consumer advice centers shows that the portals are being used. Most frequently, 72 percent of those surveyed compared insurance tariffs, followed by around 70 percent who checked the tariffs of energy providers. The reason why the users rely on such portals is particularly clear: 96 percent stated that the best price-performance ratio is “important” or “rather important” to them. Around 61 percent concluded new insurance policies directly via the portal.
However, there are a few things that consumers should keep in mind for the best results. This includes paying attention to the results near the top of the list that some providers are highlighted when they pay for them. The offer does not have to be the best for the user, however.
Comparison portals: You should know these tips
In addition, some providers refuse to use the portals and sometimes have cheaper offers. It is therefore worthwhile to consult other sources and compare them with the tariffs on comparison portals. Pre-set filters should also be checked when searching – sometimes some adjustment screws can be changed according to personal needs, which can result in a lower price.
The consumer advice centers also point out that many portals advertise with quality seals. Consumers should check whether the seal was actually awarded by an independent testing agency or whether it came from the comparison portal itself.
Also notes that an offer is limited, will end soon or
is exclusive, users should question it critically. According to the consumer advice center, this procedure is a means of exerting pressure to accelerate purchase decisions. Interested parties should not conclude a contract due to supposed time pressure, because it is likely that
other portals have the same offer or at least a comparable offer, according to the consumer advice center.
Suggested independence not always given
It is also worth taking a closer look at the price of an offer, because it is an important criterion how this total price comes about. Sometimes vouchers or discounts play a role in ensuring that a visually favorable price is achieved – if these prices cease to exist at the end of the term, the price increases after an automatic renewal.
It cannot be generally said whether it is worthwhile to conclude a contract via a comparison portal, or rather directly with an online insurance company or even with a consultant. However, it is important not to rely solely on the results of the portals, because the suggested independence is not always given.