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UK: Price comparison sites to be investigated by competition watchdog

 |  June 14, 2016

The competition watchdog is to investigate suspected market rigging by energy price comparison websites.

The investigation will examine whether websites agreed not to compete with each other when consumers searched on Google for the best deals.

The Competition and Markets Authority said: “The CMA is investigating a suspected breach of competition law by some price comparison websites that offer energy tariff comparisons in relation to paid online search advertising.”

But in a bizarre twist, the initial investigation by the industry regulator, Ofgem, has been switched to the CMA after Ofgem uncovered earlier dealings by its own staff with the comparison sites that could have called into question the impartiality of the investigation.

Ofgem said it found that two or more of the comparison sites had, since 2010, “been parties to an agreement or concerted practice relating to bidding and/or negative matching for search advertising which have as their object or effect the prevention, restriction or distortion of competition.”

These practices included “agreements not to compete in relation to particular search terms used for the purposes of online search advertising”.

Negative matching is when an advertiser indicates to a search engine operator such as Google that it does not want its website to appear in the search results for specific keywords.

Full Content: The Guardian

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