Dating back to when we started WhistleOut in 2008, we’ve always run a broad panel of service providers in our comparison engine, regardless of whether we have had a commercial relationship with the service provider.
We’ve never been able to run absolutely every product in a product category as there can be tens of thousands of 'fringe' products in each vertical that come and go frequently. We’ve always maintained a couple of thousand products in our database so that consumers always get a good cross section of the market in their search results. We now maintain over 5,000 active products in our databases with over a million pricing combinations.
We always endeavour to include the top 10 service providers in each product category (we operate in 7 countries and across 4 product verticals) and we try to include more than that in most instances. The top ten service providers typically cover 80% of the products sold in each vertical, and sometimes even more (in Australia over 80% of the home loans are sold by the Big 4 Banks and it is estimated that just 3 internet providers are selling over 80% of the new NBN connections in Australia). Comparing what's being advertised and what is sold is obviously the most meaningful and helpful comparison for users to ensure transparency in the market. As a consumer comparison service, you've got to be comparing what the majority of consumers are looking to buy.
When we launched the service in 2008 we started with no money. Nothing. Nada. Zip. We had zero commercial relationships. However, as we built our site over time, service providers became interested in receiving referrals from their product listings in our search results. The first company we provided referrals to was iiNet in 2008 and we've added many more commercial partners over the years. Our first commercial partner in the US was Ting and our first commercial partner in Canada was Wind. We remain very grateful for each service provider's support in helping us run the site and allowing us to grow into 7 countries.
A commercial partner gets three things from WhistleOut (examples are listed below).
For service providers that we include on our site that are not a commercial partner, we will show their single best product match for the user's search in the organic results with no referral link, just like we always have. These products are still audited and maintained by our team with the same regularity and attention to detail as every other service provider in our database.
We can't cover all products in the market as the product maintenance burden is too large, but we always endeavour to include at least the top ten service providers and usually many more. We maintain pricing combinations (deals, promotions, products, fees) for over 5,000 products in our database.
We're also acutely aware that showing too many products makes it hard for users to actually engage in a comparison and make a decision. After much research, we know consumers will struggle with the comparison process if they don't see one brand they recognise on the first screen of their comparison.
Many businesses call themselves comparison sites but are not actually search engines for products and prices in the market. Instead, they are only listing the products they earn commissions from. WhistleOut does not sell the products to you, it is merely a research tool and you can buy the product from the service provider if you like it. We are not a broker.
The ACCC has set guidelines for Comparison Sites and WhistleOut strives to adhere to those guidelines.The ACCC has three key principles for comparison sites to adhere to:
The ACCC also says it is reasonable for consumers to expect that comparator websites provide access to information that is representative of the range of offers available in a certain sector. Consumers are also likely to seek comparator websites that cover a greater proportion of the market. As such, if operators do not appropriately inform consumers who or what is being compared, any purchasing decisions may be based on a distorted view of the market. Failure to make accurate or adequate disclosure about the nature or extent of the comparison service, including market coverage, may involve misleading or deceptive conduct, including by omission, and the making of false or misleading representations.
If you believe we are falling short in any of these areas, please contact us.
Consumers are entitled to a fair comparison and to see the differences between the widely advertised products in a market. In the UK, comparison sites were accused of misleading conduct for only showing products they sold or had commercial deals with, misleading consumers and hurting the industry. UK comparison sites are now forced to show a far wider spread of commercial and non-commercial results.
We've always believed in a broad set of results and that you should be able to compare the prices and features of all the big service providers in one place so that you can put their products to the test. Consumers need a way to get past the big claims made on TV and see the value of each product stacked side by side.
A number of Australian sites have been issued infringements by the ACCC for over-stating the amount of service providers they compare and misleading consumers by only showing a narrow set of results. (Compare The Market in 2014, Energy Watch in 2012 and iSelect in 2007). WhistleOut will always run a balanced panel of service providers, with both commercial and non-commercial relationships.
A standard organic from our database result looks like this:
An organic result where we have a commercial deal to refer the customer to the service provider looks like this:
A featured (promoted) result at the top of the results table has a 'featured' label and users can hide this list of promoted matches at any time, and also remove any service provider from their results using our filters.
Users can sort their results in a range of different ways to suit their comparison needs.
In our results we calculate the 24 month comparison cost of having a product for 2 years (so that high upfront costs are normalised and contract costs are exposed) and users can make an informed decision. This is similar to the process of calculating a comparison rate in the finance industry.
If you are a service provider and there is product information in our database that you would like to make changes to, please contact us.
In any section of the site where we show a list of providers by popularity (popularity tables, or tools to sort by popularity), this is user generated popularity based on page views and clicks (purchasing intent) of each service provider on our site in the last 7 days. The popularity on our comparison site does not reflect real world market share.
When we list products in our database, we collect the information factually and maintain the prices and features. We don't test each service or service plan and we rely on the fact that if a service provider says that they are offering 2GB for $20, we can take that as factually correct for the purposes of comparison.
If you have encountered any issues with service providers listed on our site, please contact us.