Guide for comparator website operators and suppliers

The ACCC has published Comparator websites: A guide for comparator website operators and suppliers covering all aspects of comparator services, including advertising and marketing. Background.

The guide was developed in response to concerns by the ACCC about a lack of transparency in terms of both the material on the operators’ websites and the commercial relationships behind-the-scenes.

The Guide discusses three key principles to assist operators and suppliers when making decisions about all aspects relating to the comparison service:

  • Facilitate honest, like-for-like comparisons
  • Be transparent about commercial relationships
  • Clearly disclose who and what is being compared.

Like-for-like comparisons will normally involve the following:

  • operators presenting results in descending order with the ‘best match’ to a consumer’s stated needs appearing at the top
  • operators disclosing what is meant by a value ranking
  • operators making accurate savings representations or claims
  • operators having systems in place to ensure the accuracy and quality of product information
  • operators disclosing any assumptions used when displaying search results
  • suppliers providing timely and accurate information to operators.

Some categories of commercial relationships that could mislead or deceive consumers if they are not prominently disclosed

  • operators promoting or giving preference to the products of particular suppliers by displaying results on the basis of commercial relationships rather than the consumer’s stated preferences
  • sales quotas affecting the promotion, recommendation and ranking of products, particularly in circumstances where the operator agrees to sell a specified number of a particular supplier’s products in a certain period.

The ACCC recommends that operators clearly and prominently differentiate ‘sponsored’ or ‘advertised’ products from the organic search results – for example, by using different colours and including a statement that the product is being ‘advertised’ or ‘sponsored’ – otherwise consumers are likely to be misled.

The guide also covers:

  • Independence of comparator website operators
  • Fairness of algorithm results
  • Information provided by call centres
  • Nature and extent of comparisons
  • Value rankings
  • Representations about savings
  • Timeliness and accuracy of information
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