Frankfurt The saying is catchy – and comes at prime time. “Check24, Germany’s largest comparison portal – here I check everything,” it says gaudily shortly before the day’s news in a TV commercial on the comparison portal, which is accompanied by laughers from the canned food. But the insurer HUK Coburg has long since laughed at the Munich advertising campaign.
The Francs, which are Germany’s largest motor vehicle insurers, have once again taken the online portal to court because of its “Nowhere cheaper” guarantee – and have now prevailed before the Cologne district court. The judges in the metropolis on the Rhine decided on Wednesday that Check24’s advertising would mislead customers – even after Munich’s improvements.
The insurance industry is thus showing the emerging company its limits in court for the time being. According to the judges of the regional court in Cologne, the online portal may no longer advertise with its “Nowhere cheap guarantee” in motor vehicle insurance, even though it does not list HUK’s tariffs at all.
The Francs had claimed that their own tariffs are cheaper in some cases than the offers listed on Check24, but cannot be concluded via the portal. Originally, the district court in Cologne wanted to pass a judgment in December. But the judges postponed a vote on the complaint by the Upper Franconian insurer and started a new hearing – which is why the verdict was postponed until April.
In the dispute, HUK Coburg accused Check24 of misleading customers with the “nowhere cheap guarantee” on the company’s website. The insurance company argued that the cheapest insurance is not always found on the portal. A view that the district court now agreed.
“Consumers expect Check24 to map the entire market,” said a spokeswoman for the court. “In fact, however, it is only 80 percent.” The comparison portal had already fallen on the nose with another promise in court at the beginning of February. The regional court in Munich recently ruled that the online broker may no longer offer “anniversary deals” or similar discount campaigns for insurance contracts.
The wave of lawsuits shows that when dealing with the newcomer from Munich, the established addresses increasingly resort to harder bandages. It is not the first time that both sides have argued in court. The HUK Coburg had already successfully acted against Check24 in the previous year because it considered their advertising to be misleading and unfair.
Even then, the reasoning was simplified that Check24 did not cover the entire market. The comparison portal could therefore not make a promise like “Nowhere cheaper”. It cannot be ruled out that a customer would find a cheaper policy with other providers. But since then Check24 has improved and now reimburses the difference, at least for a year, if the customer finds a cheaper policy.
Huk Coburg therefore again made an application for regulatory aid in the summer of this year as to whether the now changed advertising was subject to the judgment given in September 2018 – which the Cologne judges initially denied in June this year. The regional court was of the opinion that the changed form did not fall within the core area of the pronounced ban and was therefore at least not prohibited due to the previous judgment.
The Cologne-based company, on the other hand, only now decided on the general admissibility of advertising – with a result that Check24 should not like. However, the judges allowed an appeal, which is why the dispute could still go to the Higher Regional Court in Cologne.
The legal dispute is only the most recent dispute that the comparison portal is now having with the insurance industry. The Munich-based company has also been cross-court in court with insurance brokers for years.
In a lengthy legal dispute, the Federal Association of German Insurance Merchants, which represents around 40,000 insurance agents, got Check24 customers to point out the commissions that the company receives when concluding a contract before signing an insurance contract. The comparison portal thus already tested its legal limits.
There is more to the argument than just a fight over a few paragraphs. Ultimately, the question is who will do business in the increasingly digitized insurance industry in the future. Check24 has won a leading role in Germany in recent years and has thus developed into a new power factor for many insurers.
The portals advertise with the argument of finding the cheapest tariff for customers. However, they live on commissions – even if their results appear objective. Technically speaking, the portals are brokers.
Check24, run as a GmbH, is virtually omnipresent among consumers due to its high advertising budget. Observers estimate that the secretive company now spends a low three-digit million sum in advertising every year. According to the branch service Nielsen, Check24 is among the top 20 German advertising companies.
But in the meantime, Joonko, a new serious competitor in Germany, has emerged that wants to spoil Munich customers – and behind which are powerful addresses. Joonko is part of the Berlin startup Finleap, which has brought Chinese insurer Ping An on board, which is the number one in the industry in terms of market value.
Customers are pushing the pages of the comparison portals because they no longer want to laboriously search for each individual product separately on the Internet. For the established addresses, this means a serious disadvantage: you not only have to pay the portals commissions for placing the orders – they also lose direct contact with the customer in the long run. Strong insurance brands such as Allianz and HUK Coburg are therefore trying to avoid the online portals.
Germany’s largest motor vehicle insurer successfully won deletion from the comparison portal just before the Cologne Higher Regional Court last summer. Despite the lack of cooperation with Check24, the company previously populated as a search result for car insurance in the list of the portal – but without price details. Check24 and HUK Coburg will no longer be friends.
More: Insurance agents inflict legal defeat on Check24.