News item

Don’t get ripped off online, warns Consumerline

Consumerline has issued a warning about the cost of using unofficial sites offering government services.

Consumerline has received a number of complaints recently about unofficial websites where you can renew your European Health Insurance card, order a passport, or book your driving theory test.

In most cases, the firms offering these services do state that they are not the official government agencies, but many people do not realise that they are not on the official site for the service they are trying to book and end up paying a fee.

European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) - This is free when booked through the official NHS website, but beware there are many other sites on the internet which make a charge for obtaining the card. The websites, which are typically listed at the top of a search engine results page, charge a fee of up to £15 for processing applications that consumers can make themselves. Some sites even charge £19.50 for a 'fast track' application.

Stephen Thompson, Consumerline manager said: “Although this is not an illegal practice, many consumers do not realise that the sites are unofficial and that they do not need to pay a penny for their EHIC card.”

Applying for or renewing your passport - Again there are many sites offering to help you complete your passport application form – at a price well above the Passport office fee. Some sites will charge a premium of around £40 on top of the official cost of a passport.

Booking your theory test - Similarly there are many sites offering to book your theory test at a substantial premium to the cost of booking it directly yourself – for example one site charges £18 to do what you can do for free.

Stephen Thompson added: “These unofficial websites offer to do little more that what you can do yourself.

“One way of ensuring that you are not paying more than necessary is to use the NI Direct website, which makes it easy to navigate to the official site where you will not have to pay over the odds for any of these services. Use the links below to ensure you don’t get ripped off.”

EHIC: http://www.nidirect.gov.uk/claim-health-treatment-in-europe-european-health-insurance-card-formerly-e111
Theory test: http://www.nidirect.gov.uk/book-your-theory-test
Passports: http://www.nidirect.gov.uk/passports

Notes to editors:

1. Another popular service is ordering certificates (birth, death, marriage etc) online from the General Register Office. This can be done using the following link: http://www.nidirect.gov.uk/gro

2. For more advice, contact Consumerline on 0300 123 6262 or visit http://www.consumerline.org

3. For press enquiries please contact DETI Press Office on tel: 028 9052 9604. Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.

DATE: 21 May 2013