Gold'en Rant : Don't Let The Cashback Monster Eat Your Cookies

Cashback sites. Easy money. These are sites like Cashback Kings and Quidco which `introduce' you to third-party Web sites for mundane items such as car and home insurance - just about anything you buy on the Web, in fact.

And in return for referring you, they get a commission, the bulk of which they pass on to you.

The deal appears to be a no-brainer and I've made a few hundred quid by renewing my car and house insurance, including Green Flag breakdown, through Quidco.

But there's a loophole. If the referred merchant wishes, they can decline the cashback and you have approximately zero chance of appealing.

This happened last summer when I signed up with Three for a mobile broadband deal. For no apparent reason, Three declined my 55 pounds Quidco cashback and no amount of emailing Quidco or Three would get
the cashback re-instated.

And now it's happened again with E-On, the utility company. Oddly enough, also for 55 pounds. To be fair, Quidco say in their terms and conditions that they are effectively at the mercy of the merchants who can decline payment for a number of reasons, including the fact that they are paying commission to another Web site.

This is where it gets interesting as, suppose you Google for, say, E-On and visit the Web site briefly on a Monday. After checking rates online, you then decide to sign up via Quidco on the Tuesday.

What appears to happen is that Google cookie is still valid, so E-On pays its commission to Google. And Quidco passes on a cashback decline notice. Google cookies, by the way, can last for years.

So basically customers of cashback sites can - and do - get refused cashback on a seemingly random basis. You can of course, email in with an enquiry, but you don't get a reply. Booger. Your mileage, as they say, may vary...