ArgosCompare forced offline over FSA rules

ArgosAgainst Russian-speaking meerkats and obese opera singers, there was no comparison when it came to ArgosCompare, the high street retailer's offering in the highly competitive price aggregator market.The site, which was hosted by BeatThatQuote, has been forced offline and put "under review", the company said, due to its model falling foul to the FSA's tighter rules surrounding white-labelling via retail affinity deals. Back in October last year, the site was re-launched and added credit cards to its list of products that included mortgages and insurance products.

Argos said in a statement: "Following revised guidance by the FSA regarding the regulation of UK price comparison websites, Argos has placed under review and the site is currently unavailable to new business. We are working to resolve the situation as soon as possible." It added that any gift cards or products bought on the site would be valid and the terms unaffected.

The FSA has tightened the rules around aggregation sites after consumer complaints that the price on screen is often not the price the customer finally pays at purchase. This has heightened the FSA's concerns over consumer detriment and whether online price hunters are being misled.

Comparison sites, such as Comparethemarket and Gocompare, are used by millions of people but many are unaware that a true comparison of the 'market' is not always on display. In most cases, what the consumer is actually comparing is a vast array of products from one or two select providers. Real time quotes are not always available so the final price is different from the first deal shown.

Under the FSA's new guidance rules, comparison sites have to review whether their activities are authorised, and any third parties are fully registered and authorised. If any third parties are guilty of compliance breaches, they must cease activities.

The regulator has also stressed the need for better regulatory systems and procedures to be put in place, and for more transparency in documentation and sales procedures.
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