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Not so Simples

The effect of advertising on British consumerism has been prominent in recent years, and with the expansion and proliferation of channels and the conversion to digital television, there are more adverts on television than ever before.

The rudiments of advertising remain the same however, with catchy slogans and memorable selling points still as noticeable now as ever.

One such addition to our television screens is the loveable meerkats of Compare the Market fame.

These peculiar creatures are perhaps as famous (or infamous) as the company itself, and when advertising a website that supposedly gives you the best deal on insurance, there is little bad to say about Compare the Market, or any price comparison website for that matter, on the face of things.

However this week regulators the FSA (Financial Services Authority) have warned that these websites may be advising policies that consumer are not actually eligible for.

Compare the Market, along with other companies such as Confused, GoCompare and MoneySupermarket, have been told to take responsibility for finding out a potential customers eligibility rather than having the customer do it themselves.

The complex nature of many insurance products has led the FSA to deem the policies too complicated for many customers, and that the onus should be on the company rather than the individual to make sure a policy is suitable and correct.

Another issue with such websites is that they emphasise price and cheapness, rather than suitability and the criteria of each policy. This emphasis may lead some customers to purchase unsuitable policies that may fall apart when claimed on due to an unknown ineligibility.

The FSA said in a statement that customers may think 'that they are receiving a quote based on their individual demands and needs when they are actually receiving an illustrative quote based on a set of generic risk criteria', and that there was a lack of anything stating that this wasn't in fact the case.

This fails their regulatory requirements, and these websites tend to favour mass generic answers rather than anything subjective to an individual customer. A spokesman for company GoCompare said that they are cooperating fully with the investigation and that they would make immediate efforts to be compliant with the FSA's regulation guidelines. 

The FSA's report will remind customers to be careful and vigilant, and to prioritise correctly when searching for insurance deals. This investigation has highlighted the need for the consumer to be attentive and aware when purchasing insurance policies, and is indicative of the fact that whilst advertising schemes and memorable catchphrases may be a great hook for a business, their own policies and regulations can often be far from 'simples'. 

By Sean Dudley

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