Case reference: CRE-E-26547, 26555, 26759, 26760, 26761
Relevant law: Enterprise Act 2002, Consumer Protection from Unfair
Trading Regulations 2008
These investigations were opened by the OFT as part of its off grid
energy market study. Based upon complaints and comments on potential
consumer problems, the OFT looked at the ease with which consumers could
compare prices on-line.
Websites seemed to share certain characteristics of price comparison
sites using domain names that might indicate they were a price
comparison site, but not prominently displaying the names of businesses
operating the site, and in some cases making claims or comments about
comparisons or obtaining best prices without always being clear whether
a price comparison was being made.
The OFT was concerned that consumers might be misled or confused by
websites giving the impression they were price comparison sites for
domestic heating oil when they were not. The OFT was also concerned that
price comparison sites should make it clear how many prices have been
compared and whether there is any connection between the supplier
providing the quotation and the price comparison site.
As a result of its investigations, the OFT formed the view that several
businesses may be operating in breach of the Consumer Protection from
Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs). In particular the OFT identified
evidence of commercial practices which it believed constituted
misleading statements or omissions about the operation of the websites.
In the course of its investigation, the OFT sent information requests to
four companies under section 224 of the Enterprise Act.
All the businesses have co-operated with the OFT investigations.
Fuelfighter.co.uk is operated by WCF Limited. Its website claimed that
it was an independent price comparison site and provided a list of
customer testimonials that supported this claim. The OFT was concerned
that these claims could not be substantiated. The company had set up the
site with the intention of operating it as a price comparison site but
had yet to introduce other suppliers, so the only business supplying
quotations through the site was WCF Limited. The customer testimonials
could not be substantiated. The company and its directors signed
undertakings not to mislead consumers by claiming its website was an
independent price comparison site when it was not, omitting information
about the ownership of the website and the businesses providing
quotations via the website.
The price comparison site Boilerjuice.co.uk is operated by Boiler Juice
Limited. Although a separate company, it is ultimately owned by DCC plc
which also owns some of the oil distribution companies providing
quotations via the Boiler Juice website.
The OFT was concerned that the website omitted information about the
ultimate ownership of Boiler Juice Limitedand its connection to some of
the oil distributers providing quotations via the website was not clear.
The OFT was also concerned that the quotations omitted to tell consumers
the number of businesses being compared when a quotation is provided.
Boiler Juice Limited made changes to its website in response to the OFT
concerns and the company and its directors have signed undertakings not
to omit material information about the ownership of the website or
failure to disclose connections between the businesses providing
information or quotations to consumers. Also to make clear the number of
businesses providing quotations prior to a consumer accepting a
The Cheapheatingoil website is operated by Johnston Oils Limited. The
website did not claim it was a price comparison website. Although it did
not claim to be a price comparison site, from its style and from some
statements it contained, the OFT was concerned that consumers could be
misled into thinking that the website was comparing prices. Johnston
Oils Limited changed its website to include ownership details on the
home page and enhanced the site to be clear that it is not a price
comparison website. The case in relation to this company was closed with
a letter advising the company about our general concerns.