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Intermediaries in Consumer Markets - Research Report

4 May 2017

Intermediaries in Consumer Markets - Research Report [ 1 mb]

In the last decade there has been rapid growth of digital comparison tools, such as Price Comparison Websites (PCWs) which are now well established brands. Still growing are Next Generation Intermediaries (NGIs), which are automated data driven digital tools which access transaction and personal data and facilitates switching on consumers’ behalf with their permission. Other digital tools are being adopted, such as cashback sites and add-ons, which scour the internet to find the best deals.

Despite the benefits which many consumers find from using PCWs, of saving cost and time, they have not increased the levels of switching in regulated markets to drive up competition by bringing prices down, or driving quality up.

It has been expected that NGIs would make it easier for consumers to find the best deal, as they automatically access consumers’ data and find the best deal for them. Citizens Advice estimates that only 1% of consumers have ever used a NGI service.

Citizens Advice commissioned this research study to update understanding of consumer behaviour and attitudes in relation to PCWs and NGIs. It examines how consumer engagement with PCWs and NGIs could be improved, and whether there are any barriers to PCWs and NGIs helping more people to finding better deals.

The research is a substantial qualitative study designed to observe how people use PCWs and NGIs, how adept they are at using them and to explore barriers to more widespread use.

It uses three research methods –  

  • A usability study and semi structured interviews amongst 162 consumers with different levels of PCW usage experience

  • In-depth interviews with eight ‘vulnerable’ consumers

  • An online community with eight NGI users