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Comparator sites ‘will not kill off brokers’

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There will always be a role for brokers despite the growth of comparator sites in Australia, according to Ebix Australia MD Leon d’Apice.

He was commenting on a decision by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) to examine comparator sites.

Mr d’Apice says the dangers comparator sites represent to the role of brokers have been overstated, and that comparators will only function effectively in personal lines.

“I don’t know many brokers chasing personal lines business, because most car and house business is going direct,” he told insuranceNEWS.com.au.

Mr d’Apice says businesses will always go to brokers for advice and would be unlikely to refer to a comparator site even if one existed for a particular specialist commercial line.

“Business owners often don’t know what insurance they need,” he said. “I haven’t seen many comparator sites on professional indemnity insurance, for example.”

National Insurance Brokers Association (NIBA) CEO Dallas Booth told insuranceNEWS.com.au the association hasn’t started looking in detail yet at the issues surrounding comparator sites.

“At the moment we have no issues in front of NIBA with comparator sites,” he said. “It hasn’t been high on our agenda during the past three or four months.”

ASIC did not return insuranceNEWS.com.au calls on what direction its review into comparator sites will take.

Mr d’Apice says one issue that does need to be cleared up is the confusion over what are comparator and aggregator sites.

Many people insuranceNEWS.com.au spoke to defined a comparator as a site where different insurers publish a price for their product in comparison with their competitors.

An aggregator site is owned by one organisation that publishes product prices, but they are all from related companies.

“There are very few true comparison sites in Australia,” Mr d’Apice said. “The majority are cardboard cut-outs.

“There is a lot of confusion between comparators and aggregators and that needs to be cleared up.”

The subject of comparator sites has divided the insurance industry, with some companies seeing them as a means of expanding sales while others are trying to eliminate them.

With ASIC showing an active interest in these sites next year, this will force the debate into the open.

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