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Advisers risking reputation with lead generation services

Some sites clone pages or information from regulated intermediaries. Medical-guardian.co.uk features details of broker Chase Templeton.

The webpage states: “Get top-class Chase Templeton Healthcare offers personally tailored for you. Just complete the application form above to gain access to non-public rates. Saving over 40 per cent: By using our website, visitors will qualify for private rates saving over 40 per cent. Get access now.”

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Warren Dickson, chief executive of Chase Templeton, said: “Medical Guardian has no connection whatsoever with Chase Templeton. Our logo and name have been used without our permission and we are referring the matter to our legal advisers.”

He added: “Unfortunately this is an endemic problem. These sites appear, and seek to generate and sell leads in a wholly inappropriate manner, and, when taken down, promptly reappear under another guise.”

Besides offering instant quotes, which they cannot do, rogue sites often claim to be independent but pass details to in-house salesforces, while some feature logos of major insurers without permission including old names such as Norwich Union. Consumers searching for cover will have no idea the site is outside UK financial regulation and may ignore data protection law.

Moneysupermarket, in common with other regulated comparison sites, sells long-term IP and PMI leads to brokers. It is concerned that the large number of unregulated sites could confuse both brokers and clients.

Emma Walker, head of protection for Moneysupermarket, said that unregulated sites have mastered search engine algorithms. “They know how to use loopholes to top lists. They know hardly anyone looks beyond the first few entries, let alone the second page. One way to achieve a high ranking is via content, cloning material from a reputable source helps,” she added.

Unregulated sites bid heavily for the coveted top search engine advert spot. They can afford to pay as they pay nothing for compliance, and probably little for staff and premises.

Brokers tempted to lay out £35 to £50 for an unregulated site lead need to ask the details’ provenance. More unscrupulous sites will sell leads already used elsewhere (known as ‘multi-distribution’). This can lead to consumer confusion – or worse. Customers may wonder how often their details have been sold. And as many sites make unjustifiable claims, policyholders might have eventual cause for complaint.

All this adds to acquisition costs – especially if the leads are low quality. PMI brokers can find free leads from the Association of Medical Insurers and Intermediaries site.

Brokers could risk their name using these sites and insurers face a potential backlash because of unauthorised logo use but so far few insurers have proactively policed their intellectual property.

“Brokers need to understand where their leads come from,” said Ms Walker. “They should ask for recommendations from other brokers. And they should not be confused by insurance company logos, many are there without permission. This is a growing issue but one still scarcely discussed or debated. ”