Should OFT approval require moneysavingexpert.com to be regulated by the Press Complaints Commission?

Martin Lewis, who last week sold his editorial business to FSA authorised and regulated Moneysupermarket.com Group plc, spent £1 million on the deal in legal fees. Much of this seems to have been spent on hammering out a 15 point so called editorial code, according to Lewis, who has been posting in defence of his sale on his forum.

Lewis’s editorial code is not the official Editor’s Code being picked over at the Leveson Inquiry. This code is administered by the Press Complaints Commission. The printed media and their websites (with the exception of Northern & Shell) pay a voluntary levy to the PCC  which hears complaints from the public against the press about inaccurate or misleading articles, invasions of privacy and other matters.

Rather than sign up to the PCC for a relatively small fee Lewis has instead spent a vast sum drawing up a private code of his own. It seems an extraordinary amount for a man who refuses to pay over the odds for a can of cola.

Lewis, whose appears on Wikipedia as a financial journalist, has always considered himself as such and his business an editorial one, with the freedom of the press. Asked by the chair of the Treasury Select Committee in 2010 who regulated him, Lewis said it was nobody. ‘ I am a financial journalist and regulation of the media is an interesting one,’ he said. In 2009, he corrected the Committee which seemed to think his business was a price comparison website: ‘We are not actually a price comparison site, we are an editorial site,’ he told MPs.In 2008, appearing on Channel 4 News, he corrected Jon Snow’s misunderstanding about his business: ‘No Jon I think you are misunderstanding I have an editorial website’.

Now that his editorial business with its access to press information and the public through national broadcasters (*) is owned by a price comparison website, is it time the public had an independent regulator to complain to, even a feeble one like the PCC?

Lewis told the BBC his code has the power to fine Moneysupermarket.com a seven figure penalty for breach. The PCC lacks even the ability to fine. But is all this talk about paying lawyers a million pounds and seven figure fines preparatory work aimed at impressing the OFT, which has to approve the merger, when what such an influential media business needs is independent regulation?

*ITV Daybreak ITV Lorraine, BBC 1 Watchdog, BBC 2 How To Beat Tough Times, BBC Radio 2 Jeremy Vine Show, BBC Radio 5 Live Shelagh Fogarty, BBC Radio 1 Jo Wiley, Channel 5 It Pays To Watch

{ 5 comments }

Northern Alliance August 8, 2012 at 10:30 am

They are so big now, it’s not just one journalists opinion it is basically like a newspaper.. so i think it should be regulated like the papers are.

Paulbiggs @ LifeQuoter August 9, 2012 at 10:50 am

I guess its a wise decision taken by Lewis. I am really surprised about the amount they are charging. A seven digit figure is something really huge and definitely needs approval from a reliable third party. Just wondering what decision will OFT come up with.

thx
Paul

Dean Coombes September 3, 2012 at 1:02 pm

Very interesting point you make Paul a seven digit figure is huge and maybe there doing this to send out a signal, will be interesting to see what the OFT will come up with, will keep a look out.

Peter Terbert October 10, 2012 at 3:22 pm

I haven’t always agreed with all the advice from moneysavingexpert.com. Especially on the whole of life insurance topic. But in general it’s a good source for the consumer on many financial issues.

lee May 19, 2013 at 7:28 pm

I hadnt really thought about money saving expert being regulated. Being as big as it is now maybe it should be kept in check. I use it regularly and take its info for granted and just believe what they are saying. Now though without martin lewis at the helm we should all read it more carefully.
Great post lee

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