Insurance comparison sites

Looking for a new health, car, or home insurance policy? CHOICE's review of comparison websites reveals some hidden catches.
 
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03.iSelect

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The biggest Australian insurance comparison site, iselect.com.au, is best known for its health insurance comparisons. It also sells car and life insurance while its subsidiary site InfoChoice is used for comparing credit cards and savings accounts.

We have assessed sites using ASIC’s guidelines for financial comparison sites and principles developed by consumer groups (including CHOICE) for electricity comparison websites, as follows:

  • Accuracy Do they clearly disclose the basis of awards or ratings? Do they include all providers or a warning if not all providers are compared?
  • Impartiality What kind of relationship do they have to the product providers on their site?
  • Transparency Do they disclose links to providers including commissions, referral fees, payments for inclusion in comparisons and payments for featured products?

Accuracy

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  • Insurers are listed on the product comparison page and you’re required to tick a disclaimer saying you understand that iSelect recommends “Approved” policies from participating insurers.
  • We couldn’t locate a disclaimer indicating that all health insurers aren’t compared, although there’s a note deep in the fine print that not all car insurers are compared.
  • Twelve out of 36 providers are compared for health insurance, three of which are restricted membership funds. Twelve car insurance providers are compared.
  • iSelect consistently assures us that recommendations are based on consumers’ needs but we were unable to find any more detail on the basis for recommendation of products.

Impartiality

  • iSelect was listed on the stock exchange in June this year. The largest shareholders before the listing were ninemsn and founder Damien Waller.
  • Three of the 12 car insurance brand names listed on the site are owned by iSelect; they also have their own brand of health insurance, Surepath (not currently available on the site).
  • Ten of the 12 car insurance brands are underwritten by the same insurer, Auto and General Insurance Company.

Transparency

  • A “How does iSelect make money?” statement on the site declares iSelect may receive a one-time or recurring fee from providers.

iSelect say:

  • The website and call centre operators are detached from fee arrangements so commissions do not influence recommendations.
  • Upfront commissions never exceed half of the first year’s premium for health, and trailing commissions don’t exceed 6.5% of the premium collected over the life of the product.

 

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