December 4, 2020

Bucks: Consumer Reports Offers New Comparison Tool

Consumer Reports has long offered rankings and comparisons of products as diverse as cars, vacuum cleaners and televisions. Now the magazine’s online counterpart, consumerreports.org, has teamed up with the bill comparison site Billshrink.com to help shoppers evaluate the services that go along with some of those products.

Billshrink, which was the subject of  a previous Bucks post, aims to help consumers find the best deals on the services they use every day, like cellphone, television and cable service, as well as credit cards and even gasoline. Started three years ago, Billshrink lets consumers enter their own actual billing and use data — they can allow the site direct access to their personal account information, if they wish — and analyzes which provider and plan would save them the most money. If the consumer switches service as a result of the inquiry, Billshrink collects a fee from the new provider. The company has no preference for one provider over another, Schwark Satyavolu, Billshrink’s chief executive, said. “We consider ourselves the Consumer Reports of services.”

Now, when visitors to consumerreports.org shop for, say, cellphones, they will also see a link to Billshrink, which will take them to a co-branded Web site where they can perhaps find a wireless plan that makes more sense than the one they currently have. (Visitors are first warned that they are leaving the Consumer Reports Web site). Visitors to the television set rankings can link to cable or satellite plans, and car shoppers will be offered the chance to search for better gasoline prices.

Consumer Reports, which forgoes advertising to maintain independence, will collect part of the fee Billshrink earns if the customer switches service, said Carol Lappin, director of business development for Consumer Reports. “If there’s an opportunity for people to really take charge of household bills and not overpay, that’s great,” she said. Any revenue Consumer Reports gets from the arrangement will go to finance its nonprofit consumer research mission, she said, and visitors are told of the fee arrangement when they click on the Billshrink link. “We’re not accepting anything directly from the provider,” she said. “There’s a vendor in the middle, so we’re arms length.”

Ms. Lappin say the Billshrink tool is potentially helpful for consumers even if they just use it for research but ultimately contact their new vendor directly to make the switch. By bypassing Billshrink, consumers eliminate the chance of generating a fee. “All that matters to us is that consumers get the information they need,” Ms. Lappin said.

The service is available free to non-Consumer Reports subscribers (a subscription is required to access full ratings information).

Do you mind if Billshrink and Consumer Reports earn a fee from your decision to switch plans, or is that fair since the goal is to save you money?

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=8038e0e5625d0d950373b9f9eacf8b9e

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