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Equality law: Comparison websites slammed for breaking law for disabled users

Comparison websites, which have multiplied in recent years to bring consumers the benefit of comparing like-for-like products in markets including insurance and mobile phones, have been panned by a new report which shows that they are routinely discriminating against disabled users.

The reports contents, if proven, demonstrate that in many cases the companies may even be breaking the law.

The new report is by AbilityNet, a charity which surveys the web to assess the accessibility of popular websites for disabled users. The charity also helps disabled users to get the most from their online experience.

AbilityNet's latest survey looked at price comparison websites, including confused.com, comparethemarket.com and gocompare.com amongst others.

The charity tested the sites using common adaptive technologies favoured by disabled users; these include screen readers and voice recognition software. The charities report found that four of the main comparison sites scored just one star out of five in their survey. This score equates to the site "failing to meet the minimum legal requirements for accessibility".

Robin Christopherson is the Head of Digital Inclusion at AbilityNet.

"The law is clear on this issue. It is just as illegal to bar disabled visitors from accessing your goods and services online as it would be to keep them out of your shop in the 'real world'" he said.

Mr Christopherson admitted that most businesses do not commit these acts knowingly. In many cases they simply do not consider the experience of disabled users when they put websites together, something which is prohibited by the Equality Act 2010.

Pinsent Mason is a law firm which specialises in Equality law.

"If a business has a website, it should be accessible to disabled users. There are ethical and commercial justifications for this, but there is also a legal reason: if the website does not meet certain design standards, then the company could be sued for discrimination," they said in a statement.

Although the legislation came into force in 2010 very few cases have reached court. The Royal National Institute for the Blind did launch legal action in two cases recently, but both were settled by businesses before they reached court.

Related links:

Read more on the story (The Telegraph)

When disability discrimination can happen (FindLaw)