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Google gets ready to crush quote-comparison websites

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Google has unveiled the next step in its plans to push into the market for online financial services with a price comparison site for mortgages and bank accounts.

The search engine first dipped a toe into the market with a mortgage price comparison tool back in 2009. It has since launched products that offer surfers an opportunity to find the best deal on credit cards and bank accounts.

The search engine is now rolling these services together under one portal, dubbed Google Advisor.

The service - which is restricted to the US - offers consumers an easier way of obtaining competitive mortgage and other banking service offers. Oddly the selection omits comparative insurance quotes, a market already well-established in Europe.

Instead of separately filling in a number of often complex forms and submitting them to different financial institutions, Google Advisor offers consumers the opportunity to submit this information only once before getting a variety of results. The benefit, aside from ease of use, is that consumers get a variety of competitive mortgage offers quickly and with the minimum of fuss, potentially winkling out attractive offers from firms they may not have otherwise considered.

Much the same approach is applied to searching for competitive quotes for credit cards and bank accounts. Google Advisor returns a list of the offers that match search criteria, along with rates and contact information.

Privacy-conscious users might be concerned about the prospect of handing over their most sensitive financial and personal information to Google. The search engine giant argues that users can get quotes through Google Advisor without revealing their personal information up front.

What this means in practice is that users' names, phone numbers and email addresses are not shared between Google and potential lenders. That minimises the possibility of follow-up sales calls from banks, but it still means you're obliged to trust Google with the private information you hand over.

"With Google Advisor, you can spend less time filling out forms, and your information will not be revealed until you proceed with a full banking or credit card application," Google explains in its privacy policy. "Offers from Google Advisor are provided using data that is publicly available on the web, and offers are ranked based on criteria that you choose for your results."

Perhaps potential privacy concerns, as much as the opportunity to get the service up and running on home turf, are behind the decision to restrict the service to the US, at least initially.

Google, however, maintains that the service actually gives users more control over the privacy of their sensitive information.

"You only need to provide the minimum amount of information we need to show you offers that are right for you," it explains. "You have full control over what you want to share, and which providers you choose to talk to—and you don’t have to submit any personal information until you’ve decided you’re ready to move forward."

Users have the option of calling a preferred mortgage supplier or bank via a number supplied by Google Advisor. This is actually a forwarding number rather than a direct line to a bank or broker.

As well as offering extra privacy the approach allows Google to count up how many potential prospects it has passed on to banks. Google gets a tip for mortgage sales leads but not for other banking service referrals.

A short video explaining how Google Advisor works has been uploaded to YouTube. ®

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