Companies that can reliably outperform their competition have a huge leg up in a tight market. And drawing attention to that fact can be a great marketing strategy. Cellular provider T-Mobile is so confident in its low prices that
it began a huge push this week, sending consumers to an independent search engine to check their prices against the competition. But now it looks like that search engine might not be entirely unbiased.

On Tuesday, T-Mobile USA announced a new campaign dedicated to helping
consumers “find a wireless plan that has the best coverage and price for you – even if it’s not with us.”

Their
new television ads, starring Catherine Zeta Jones, direct viewers to
independent price comparison engine BillShrink to prove that T-Mobile has the best prices out there. The
new spots are a huge vote of confidence in BillShrink and look like a great bit of free marketing.

The California based startup helps consumers minimize their bills and search for price
performers in a variety of areas. They started out last year with only cellular
provider comparisons, but have since raised $9 million in funding and have
expanded to other sectors, such as gas rate and credit card
fee comparisons.

The new campaign could be a huge boon in spreading BillShrink’s brand recognition. In addition to the ads that name check the service, visitors to T-Mobile’s website and brick and mortar stores can now get
a “Mobile Makeover” from BillShrink to find cost saving recommendations
for wireless plans.

It takes a lot of confidence to send consumers to the competition, but it can pay off in the end. If T-Mobile gets a reputation as the lowest price provider around, consumers could gravitate there without even verifying the veracity of their claim.
But, as it turns out, the BillShrink might not tell them otherwise even if T-Mobile’s prices don’t check out.

Today TechCrunch did a few searches on the site, and found that no matter the
criteria, BillShrink always chooses T-Mobile as the price performer:

“In
every query we ran, where minutes, text messaging, data and other
variables can be changed, T-Mobile came out as the top result that
saved users the most money. In some queries T-Mobile took every result
on the first page.”

BillShrink and T-Mobile did not respond for comment this afternoon, but if it turns
out that BillShrink is giving T-Mobile preferential treatment, this
campaign could backfire for the cellular giant. And it is even more
detrimental for BillShrink. Plenty of companies do online comparisons —
Skydeck,

Mint and doctorSIM to name a few. If
it turns out the BillShrink’s comparisons are biased in favor of their
partner companies, it renders the service pretty useless to consumers trying to save money.
No matter what Catherine Zeta Jones says about them.

UPDATE:

T-Mobile sent the following response to our query this evening:”T-Mobile
is so confident that we provide the best
overall experience for a majority of Americans that we’re willing to put our value to the test by pointing people to an independent source.” They also included links to the following articles, which point out that T-Mobile did not always win the price performance test:

T-Mobile Plays the Value Angle

Catherine Zeta-Jones Is a Cheap Date