The Market Ticker
Commentary on The Capital Markets- Category [Consumer]

Jesus, the skim just never stops, does it?

When Curtis Arnold launched the card-comparison website BestPrepaidDebitCards.com in early 2013, American Express Co. AXP -0.29% signed on as an early advertiser.

Soon after, Mr. Arnold said, the company asked him to refer to its widely used Bluebird card not as a prepaid card but as a "checking and debit alternative." Mr. Arnold agreed. Then, last summer, American Express executives urged the site to change how it presented the card's fees, he says.

...

Interviews with a dozen card-comparison sites reveal that as card-issuer pressure ramps up—with increased requests for sites to delete or change some information—most sites are giving in to their demands.

So let me see if I get this right.

The so-called "comparison" sites are in fact advertising vehicles.  If you don't present the data the way the card companies want it to be presented then you don't get their advertising.  This of course is how they're supported at all, which means absent that the site doesn't exist.

But the "face" presented to the public is that these sites compare cards from different issuers and brands.

One would expect that such "comparisons" are, well, comparisons and are developed by the site independently.  Now it may not be objective because what's objective to one person is subjective (or even biased!) to another, but there's a huge difference between a site that allegedly compares offerings and is run by some independent company and one that is nothing more than an advertising arm for a given card firm or set of card firms -- without fair, full and in-your-face disclosure of same!

Advertising is perfectly fine provided you're not misleading people.  But misleading people is not just about stating things that are not true -- it is also omitting things (or sticking them in illegible and never-read fine print) that are including who butters your bread and what they got in return!

At least when I see a commercial for ketchup on the TV I know who paid for and why -- they want me to buy a particular brand of ketchup.

How the hell can you figure out who is paying and what they're trying to lead you to buy on these so-called "comparison" sites -- and if you can't, isn't that by definition an abuse of the consumer and shouldn't it run afoul of consumer protection laws?

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