Don't fall for passport rip-off

IF you think the Government fees for either renewing your passport, getting a health card or a driving licence seem high, this may be the best route if you don’t want to get ripped off.
Her Majesty’s Passport Office charges £72.50 for making an online application, but if you decide to shop around you won’t save money - in fact you’ll be hit in the pocket.
The Passport Office charge is the standard fee and you can’t shop around for a cheaper deal. However some people have turned to the internet and have been miseld into believing they are logged onto the official Government site.
In fact they are logged onto a site run by a private company - a site that often imitates the official site - but one that will cost you almost double what it should do.
Because these rogue sites often charge a fee of between £40-£49 on top of the official £72.50 and although they are vdoing nothing illegal you are paying for something that you can get for nothing.
Rogue websites are using Google to cash in on people searching for official information on everything from passports to health cover and fishing licences.
Private companies have set up websites that mimic those run by official government bodies, but hit users with hefty fees.
Significantly, they pay Google to ensure that their names and adverts appear on the front page of searches when families are looking for information.
As a result, a large number of Britons are being diverted to commercial websites that carry charges for forms and information which should be cheaper or free.
Several companies have created copycat websites which provide the same service for up to £121.50 – a rise of 68 per cent.
People travelling to EU countries are entitled to a European health card, which ensures free emergency care. This is free of charge from an official government website, but copycat commercial firms charge £23.
The DVLA website charges £20 for a driver who wants to change their paper licence to a photocard, however the copycats carry a fee of £50.
Her Majesty’s Passport Office has made several complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority about the problem, but the ASA has the power to only name and shame, rather than impose fines or a ban.
A spokesman said: “It is totally unacceptable that unscrupulous companies are continuing to trick people into paying for information which is available free of charge.”

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