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European consumers turn their noses up at price comparison websites in favour of brokers. And it's a trend that isn't changing soon

Oliver Gill
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Meerkats are an integral part of one price comparison website's advertising campaign (Source: Getty)

Continental Europe is shunning price comparison websites for sales of motor insurance because brokers have managed to adapt better to the needs of the market unlike their British counterparts.

Two-thirds of all UK motor insurance policies are sold through price comparison websites – a medium that has only been around since the turn of the millennium. But according to research by Standard & Poors (S&P), the use of price comparison websites is much lower across the rest of Europe, with only single digit percentage proportions using them.

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"In our view, traditional intermediaries remain dominant in the European insurance markets because they have been able to adapt to new customer preferences by, for example, digitalising their offerings," said S&P in a report entitled "European motor insurance markets are not swayed by the U.K. price comparison revolution".

The UK motor insurance landscape was changed in the 1980s and 1990s as insurance companies such as Direct Line bypassed the previously entrenched broker structure to sell policies directly to customers.

What followed in the early noughties was the likes of confused.com and moneysupermarket.com offering customers the ability to shop around the direct-to-customer market.

However, outside of the Nordic regions, most of Europe has stayed clear of a direct purchase of motor insurance from providers, preferring instead to organise it through a broker or intermediary.

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This has led to individual brokers developing their own online offerings and has enabled them to head-off customers browsing elsewhere online.

There are also other certain quirks on the continent. The majority of motor insurance contracts renew on 1 January in Germany which "provides an effective barrier to entry for price comparison websites and reduces the amount of shopping around customers do".

Meanwhile in Spain, according to the research, customers who did venture online still preferred to complete their sale over the phone.

The analysis led to a simple conclusion by S&P:

As a result, we do not expect any significant changes to the market share of brokers and agents in continental Europe in the next two-to-three years.

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