ComparetheMarket fined 17.9m over competition flaw
Price comparison site ComparetheMarket has been fined 17.9m by the competition watchdog for keeping the cost of home insurance premiums artificially high.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said contracts for two years stopped insurers advertising more cheaply elsewhere.
It meant getting the cheapest possible deal was not as "simples" for consumers as the company's adverts suggest.
The CMA said it was "unacceptable".
The watchdog said clauses in contracts between December 2015 and December 2017 prohibited home insurers from offering lower prices on other comparison websites, and prevented these other platforms from expanding.
The CMA found that this was likely to have resulted in higher insurance premiums for consumers.
ComparetheMarket is one of the biggest price comparison websites and well-known for its adverts featuring meerkat puppets.
"Price comparison websites are excellent for consumers. They promote competition between providers, offer choice for customers, and make it easier for consumers to find the best bargains, said Michael Grenfell, executive director of enforcement at the CMA.
"It is therefore unacceptable that ComparetheMarket, which has been the largest price comparison site for home insurance for several years, used clauses in its contracts that restricted home insurers from offering bigger discounts on competing websites - so limiting the bargains potentially available to consumers."
An investigation by consumers' association Which? in 2018 concluded that some price comparison websites offering car insurance policies were riddled with errors.
It said millions of consumers were "not getting a clear picture from the websites they visit".
Experts suggest consumers search on more than one price comparison website when buying utilities, financial products, and services.