Thursday, 30 August 2012

Spoiled for choice or well-informed?

Picture obtained from
 Comparison websites have great potential for the developments of online shopping: they help consumers in saving time and making informed choices. However, according to a recent BEUC position paper, for their potential to be appropriately developed, they need to be reliable. This means, that they have to be as transparent as possible as to a variety of factors, such as:
-          The ownership;
-          The way they are financed;
-          The frequency with which they are updated;
-          Their geographic coverage;
-          The methodology they employ;
-          Their coverage of the concerned sector (all providers, some providers…).
The provision of this fundamental information, in any case, should not turn into an overload for the users, thus emphasis should be put on the quality of this information, i.e. on the interest which the latter carries for consumers (the price shown, for instance, should be as “final” as possible), without  highlighting price at the expenses of other conditions which consumers should also be aware of. At the same time, the way the information is organised is important: comparability should be granted according to all relevant product characteristics, including delivery. In case of ranking, the consumer should know what factors shape it in order to assess its reliability.
Finally, supervisory authorities should take charge of monitoring comparison activities to ensure consumer trust.

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