British firms are being forced to "up their game" by price comparison websites, the UK's competition watchdog said today.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) revealed its findings after a year-long in-depth investigation into online comparison tools.
More than 90 per cent of Britons were either very or fairly satisfied with comparison websites and almost two-thirds used more than one price comparison site when shopping around.
But the CMA also revealed where websites do not act in consumer's best interests it will take action.
The regulator has opened a probe into an unnamed site over fears that its contracts with insurers led to higher, rather than lower, home insurance prices.
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CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli said: "Our study has found that most people in the UK have used a comparison site at least once, so it is vital that everyone gets the benefits they deserve.
But we have also found that improvements are needed to help people get even better deals. We have set out ground rules for how sites should behave, as well as being clear on how regulators can ensure people have a better experience online.
Richard Neudegg, the head of regulation at Uswitch, one of Britain's largest price comparison websites, said the findings demonstrated "how comparison services are putting power in the hands of the consumer, driving competition and keeping suppliers on their toes".
The CMA's final report made a series of recommendations, including:
- All sites should be "clear, accurate, responsible and easy to use".
- All sites should be transparent on about how they make money; how many deals they're displaying and how they are ordering the results.
- Sites should be clear on how they protect personal information.
- It should be made as easy as possible for people to make effective comparisons or use different sites, for example through better information about products.
- All regulators with a stake in this area should work together to ensure people are well protected.
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