Commentary Economy

Hungarian competition office probes bargain-hunting websites

Hungary’s Economic Competition Office (GVH) has launched an investigation of bargain-hunting and price comparison websites.

While price comparison and bargain-hunting sites have been around for nearly two decades to provide important services and offer buyers a variety of search tools, their operations also raise a number of consumer protection issues.

GVH said it will focus its investigation on sites where search costs can be high, on the most popular products, on niche markets where competition is low or non-existent and on sites that also advertise heavily.

According to Origo, the investigation will generally follow the methodology of a similar European Union-wide investigation and report from 2013, followed by the European Commission’s 2017 recommendations regarding bargain-hunting websites.

GVH also highlighted the most common problems with these websites:

- prices often do not include additional costs such as taxes, fees and delivery charges, thus being misleading

- consumer ratings are often misleading because they are either hand-picked or come from consumers who are being paid for those ratings

- sites sometimes only include paying partners in their searches

- sites either do not inform customers on how they rank search results (e.g. putting paying partners first) or have economic ties with the vendors

- sites often use the same search technology, thus leading to identical results.

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