Energy firms strike back – price comparison giants challenged to publish commission deals

23rd January 2014

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An energy company has struck back in the heated row over energy bills targeting the role and extra cost of comparison sites. The group general manager of Cooperative Energy Ramsey Dunning has called on comparison sites to disclose how much commission they receive when a customer uses a site to select an energy provider.

Dunning attacked the firms on Sky News though he said he could not disclose how much his own firm pays to the sites because the payments are covered by confidentiality arrangements.

The Co-operative is not one of the big six but supplies around 127,000 customers in the UK.

Dunning said: “It’s time all the advertising costs and fat profits were returned to hard pressed households.”

The comparison sites are now worth huge amounts of money. The listed site Moneysupermarket.com is now worth more than £1 billion.

The sites generally receive a payment on each deal, perhaps of as much as £60 a customer – certainly that was the amount suggested on Sky – and Dunning says much of this goes on advertising as the various sites vie for the public to use their website. They certainly dominate the airways.

Dunning also suggested that a new industry site could be created to fairly disclose the different prices from suppliers – one would not involve such a huge advertising spend – though he said it would need clear, independent governance arrangements.

Comparison sites have certainly proved highly effective at posing as the friend of the consumer during the current row over energy prices. They have continually issued statements and advice about the energy price hikes and switching deals, many of which have featured on Mindful Money. The sites will no doubt argue that they deliver a better deal for customers. This week, for a while at least, maybe the tables have been turned on them.

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