Aleksandr, Sergei and co. have been around for a decade. Originally an amusing and irreverent campaign, it has blossomed into a spectacularly successful lesson in brand. The awareness built for the real money maker, the comparison website itself!
The cuddly CGI characters accompanied a site designed to be beneficial to consumers. Rather than going with an expensive renewal, you can spend a few minutes searching to find hundreds of quotes, without having to do lots of research yourself. From insurance providers you have and haven’t heard of. Simples.
This is so you, the customer, can get the best possible deal and save money - hurrah. What a noble business enterprise. And they get a little slice of the money you end up handing over.
This all seems great. ‘Customer first’ stuff. But…
What if a comparison site has grown so big and powerful that it can dictate the rates of the insurance providers. To make matters worse, if they don't comply then they risk not being listed. So, they lose even more potential customers. That seems far less ‘customer first’.
But Sergei is fixing the market.
Preventing their client base from sharing better deals with competitive comparison sites. Ensuring that the most competitive deals are via those meerkats. That might be good for the website, but it’s bad for the customer.
What if we want to compare with a certain Opera singer? Or if we are a little confused about where to go? Now we understand that these sites can’t provide the most competitive deals? What's the point?
Do we need a comparison website specialised in comparing comparisons? That's just ridiculous...
Now I know how Aleksandr meerkat lives in such a nice house. Oleg the enforcer racketeering on behalf of this insurance comparison cartel. Only the best beluga here!
Anti-competitive behaviour should attract the right kind of attention from the authorities. Customers should be able to feel confident that they can get a better rate. A return to ‘customer first’. But sadly the damage has already been done. Many of us will have paid over the odds because we didn't know of a better offer. Even worse, we were told there wasn't a better offer. So, the public has been lied to. They’ve been let down by the greedy actions of one supposedly ‘customer first’ organisation.
There’s an upside and a downside to this coming to light.
If found to be in breach of UK law because of these ‘favoured nation’ clauses. Alex and Oleg will be fined, and we will assume that they will cease their immoral (and illegal) artificial price inflation.
Artificial because it makes the rest of the market look more expensive than them.
The upside is that they have been caught. And as the law should always land on the side of the public. Unless there are other price fixing schemes within the insurance industry that we aren’t currently aware of. Sigh.... Then your choice of comparison site of choice should at least provide a non-inflated version of one truth. Not exhaustive or easily understood… But not anti-competitive.
I am a serial entrepreneur who has spent much of his life in the financial sector and in doing so I have become very knowledgeable about the sector. This experience has enabled me to become the founder of the Campaign for Fair Finance™ and my current venture, Fairmoney.com.
In my career I have started several lending companies and indeed I was instrumental in founding the non-prime motor finance sector, allowing people to afford to purchase a car who might otherwise been unable to do so.
My experience within the finance, and more particularly lending space, has afforded me the opportunity to advise the Bank of England, The Law Commission and the Treasury on various aspects of asset finance policy. Indeed I am currently assisting the regulators and some leading parliamentary figures to reform the UK credit and lending industries to create a fairer and more transparent environment.
At the same time, I also advise several charities and social enterprises on their financial and media strategies and help a number of exciting businesses across a spectrum of sectors and industries.
My experience within this industry sector has allowed me to become a media pundit and commentator on many consumer and particularly consumer finance issues and to become an ethical advisor to the emerging crypto currency and blockchain markets.