MONEY MADE EASY
YOUR FIVE MINUTE GUIDE TO… PRICE COMPARISON SITES
Households have a new way of searching for better value with the launch of uSwitch.ie, a British-owned price comparison site. It joins a growing list of similar sites such as Callcosts.ie, Bonkers.ie, FreeToCompare.ie and CompareIreland.ie. We put it to the test.
WHAT DOES IT DO?
The initial line-up from uSwitch is limited to price comparisons for electricity, gas, broadband and television. It makes money when users “click through” to the providers of these services listed on its site.
Two key energy providers – Bord Gais and Airtricity – do not currently pay uSwitch for business referred by it. Eoin Clarke, uSwicth manager for Ireland, said this does not mean its information is biased. “We’re completely impartial,” he said. “We’ll always show the cheapest price – even if we don’t earn anything when a customer selects it.”
The site is seeking accreditation by the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), whose endorsement would be a guarantee of impartiality.
WHAT ARE THE SAVINGS?
Energy is the biggest expense after a mortgage for many households, so offers the biggest scope for savings.
Suppose your provider is Electric Ireland and you use 13,800 kilowatt hours (kWh) of gas and 5,300 kWh of electricity a year, the average for an Irish home. Your annual energy bill would be €2,091.88 - €1179.41 for electricity at Electric Ireland’s SuperSaver tariff and €912.47 for gas at its standard domestic tariff. According to uSwitch you could reduce the bill to €1,886.07 – a saving of €205.81 – by moving to Airtricty for electricity and to Flogas for gas. Airtricity would tie you into a 12-month contract.
Bonkers.ie which has been accredited by the CER, came up with the same answer. It also showed there is nothing to be gained by bundling electricity and gas from the same provider because the cheapest deal – the Dual Value Reward package from Electric Ireland – would cost €1,957.13. This is €71.06 more than buying separately from Airtricity and Flogas.
WHAT ABOUT BROADBAND?
UPC, the cable company, is listed by uSwitch as the cheapest provider in Dublin at €22 a month for up to 50Mb of broadband and 100 minutes of phone calls. This is misleading, however, because the cost doubles to €44 after four months.
Imagine, a wireless broadand provider, is listed by uSwitch as the second-cheapest provider at €25 a month, even though it would cost less than UPC over a year.
Bonkers.ie is more useful because it allows users to compare the cost of broadband, phone and TV bundles, which can be the cheapest way of buying all three services. UPC is its top pick with a basic package of 50Mb broadband and 91 TV channels for €780 a year. Listing the annual cost avoids the confusion of discounted introductory prices that expire after a few months.
Information provided by state agencies is generally the most trustworthy because they are not influenced by commercial interests. They can overload users with too much information though, as they try to be scrupulously impartial.
The National Consumer Agency compares the cost of current accounts, savings accounts, mortgages, credit cards, loans and insurance at nca.ie. The Health Insurance Authority allows comparisons of more than 250 medical policies at hia.ie. The Communications Regulator compares the cost of home phone, broadband, mobile phone and bundled tariffs at callcosts.ie.