Friday, 29 July 2011

Why Captain Compare won't save you

by Rob d'Apice
Some of you may have seen Captain Compare advertised on radio or on buses in Sydney.  Perhaps you've seen the (somewhat painful) advert they've thrown on a lot of the major TV networks.

"Go Captain! Go Captain!" ... Yep, I think they've really captured the zeitgeist of modern Australia.

In spite of these cringey branding decisions, we'd welcome with open arms any attempt to help improve competition between Australia's oligopolic consumer industries and empower consumers to more easily make better product decisions.

Unfortunately, Captain Compare isn't your guy. Why? Hold on tight; we'll fill you in.

1. It's owned by A&G Insurance (hint: they offer products in the very market they're comparing)

It's one of those things that, when you learn about it, you ask yourself: how did someone let that happen? Captain Compare is fully owned by A&G Insurance, who also own a wide range of insurance brands: Budget Direct, Australia Post, ibuyeco, Virgin Car Insurance, Cashback, 1st for Women, Retirease and Ozicare.

But hey, if they're comparing all products equally and fairly, then hopefully their obvious conflict of interest shouldn't affect their results, right?


2. They don't compare all products

I don't think our editorial can speak any stronger than their own 'About' page:
As the proud team behind Captain Compare and many of the car insurance brands on this website, A&G Insurance Services is excited to let consumers compare our own award winning car insurance brands [...], right next to other confident providers such as Real Insurance and AI Insurance. Captain Compare will continue to offer all insurers the opportunity to take part. We look forward to growing our list of providers and products in all of our comparison lines.

Yeah, I'm sure they're desperately looking forward to growing their list of direct competitors to their own product suite.

But hey, if they're offering a great comparison engine, then at least there's some utility for consumers there, right? Well, here's the coup de grace in this corrupt, incompetent trifecta:

3. It's not actually useful

Have a look at their credit card comparison tool. This is what we got from it:

  • It firsts asks you do select a category of card types ('low interest', 'reward cards', 'balance transfer').  But what if a consumer doesn't know which type is best for them?
  • It then presents a mysteriously unsorted list of cards fitting that category.  How do I know which of these cards is the best?  The top result?  Why?
  • I can re-sort the results by annual fee, interest rate, or reward points per dollar spent. But don't I want to find a card that has a good balance of these features depending on my situation?
  • I can enter the how much I spend or how often I pay back. But the inputs are completely relative ('a little', 'moderate', 'lots') - how the do I know if my 'lots' is the same as someone else's?

... We could go on and on. Ultimately, though, we just get the strong feeling they've pumped all their resources into expensive advertising campaigns instead of actually trying to solve a real consumer problem.

Our Philosophy

At Prosple, we're trying to pick up where sites like Captain Compare fall down. We're holding to the following principles very tightly:
  • It must empower consumers. That means providing information on how products work, what matters and what doesn't when you are comparing them, and how to make sure you get the most out of them (and don't get screwed).  If the answer for you is 'you shouldn't have a credit card', then we want to help you get there!
  • It must compare as much of the market as possible. If we want to drive more competition in Australia, we need to make sure we're covering everyone. Encouraging you, Australia's pro-active consumers, to switch to companies that offer better products at lower prices is the only way to drive innovation in our stuffy oligopolies.
  • Our business model mustn't compromise the above. We want to build a business that is sustainable: that means it must earn enough money to pay for its costs. But we want to make sure that this doesn't sideline consumers in anyway. We've got some ideas on how to do this, but we're definitely going to need your help to make it work.
We're so close to getting started with this new brand; we've got a lot of really exciting things in store!

So keep watching this space!

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Have you used Captain Compare? Or have you tried other comparison engines? Let us know what you think of them - what you like and what you think they could do better!!

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