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Editor’s blog: Moneysupermarket.com and the snake that bit back

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  • 10/08/2010
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You'd never poke an angry snake with a stick, unless you're very bored or a little reckless. That is unless you're moneysupermarket.com, which did the equivalent with an already harassed and crotchety mortgage industry.

To recap, the consumer finance site moneysupermarket.com, which arguably knew what it was doing, released a story to the financial press at the end of July stating nine out of ten best rate deals are only available direct from the lender. (See here for story)

Moneysupermarket.com was forced to retract its figures admitting “a few broker-only deals weren’t on it” and denied it ever tried to downplay the value of brokers in the advice process. The number of deals available through brokers is the biggest bone of contention between brokers and lenders at any time. So getting the figures wrong on this was like treading on a snake’s tail then swinging it round to see what’ll happen next.

But the other issue of how consumers actually find those mortgage deals is also key.

The latest Mortgage Solutions poll asked brokers if they feel threatened by comparison sites, like Moneysupermarket.com. The results showed, perhaps unsurprisingly, that 57% of MS readers are threatened by these sites and their massive advertising spends. In comparison, brokers feel like David against the comparison site’s high-profile Goliath.

But, Foolproof, an expert in consumer buying behaviour online has some crumbs of comfort. The firm says consumers look for more than just the cheapest price when they look for a mortgage. They also like to weigh up product criteria and a variety of other factors before they buy. Reviews from other customers and basic reading material on websites are other key decision-drivers because customers want background and don’t want to look stupid in front of an adviser when they talk about their mortgage options.

All of this pushes customers away from buying mortgages on comparison sites, if not insurance, which is inexplicably seen as a simpler buy.

Foolproof’s, co-founder and partner, Peter Ballard says: “Money supermarket sites offer too little information and are too quick to try to capture customer leads to sell. Mortgages remain the last “unclaimed prize online.”

So, perhaps brokers could offer more of what the consumer wants – information and customer reviews and recommendations on their own websites?

Unlike Moneysupermarket’s claim, that brokers are just another cog in the wheel of the buying process, the reverse is true. Comparison websites are the start point for mortgage searches, not the final destination. Survey after survey tells us consumers value the service, value and market reach of brokers.

Hard to compare the incomparable, surely.

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And now for something completely different….

Nothing like going out for a spin on a Saturday afternoon.

 

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