PASSPORT & LICENSE INTERNET APPLICATION CHARGES

Warwickshire Consumers Pay Double for Official Documents!
Warwickshire consumers are advised to take care when applying on-line for official documents such as passports and driving licences or risk paying twice, Warwickshire County Council’s Trading Standards Service is warning.
Consumers applying for a range of official documents are mistaking ‘check and send’ websites run by private firms for official application websites. The ‘check and send’ websites claim to check your application before it is submitted and often charge as much as it costs to actually buy the official document itself. This for example raises a passport from just over £70 to more than £140, double the cost!
One consumer reported that having mistakenly used a ‘check and send’ website to apply for a passport he received nothing back. He contacted the website who gave him the telephone number of the official Passport Office and they were not aware of him at all!
Janet Faulkner, Head of Warwickshire Trading Standards said:
“We have received an increasing number of complaints over the last few months from consumers who had no intention of using a check and send service, but mistook these private websites for the real thing.
The private websites usually appear above official websites in Google searches and have official sounding web addresses. They often use headline statements such as ‘apply now’ and ‘complete your application’, make references to the official issuing bodies and charge near identical prices to the actual cost of the document. Many only choose to refer to ‘check and send’ services at the bottom of their web pages or in the small print
Officers advise that people should consider whether a friend or relative could double-check the form, but if they would rather use a paid-for service then they should research the charges that different firms make.
The Post Office only charges a few pounds to check your passport application and people who qualify for a free passport also qualify for a free check-and-send service from the Post Office.
It is not illegal for ‘check and send’ websites to provide these services but their websites should not be misleading
Some official documents, such as the European Health (EHIC) cards are free to obtain but consumers have complained about paying £20-£30 for them because they mistakenly visited a check and send website.
‘Check and send’ websites have appeared for the following official documents:
• Passports and passport renewals
• Provisional and full driving licence
• EHIC European Health Card
• Fishing (Rod) Licence
• Replacing Birth certificates
• United States Visa Waiver Program ESTA
When applying for any Government document the best place to begin your search is at: http://www.gov.uk/ . From this website you should either be able to apply directly for the document you require or will be signposted to the official website.
Anyone who feels they have been misled by such a site can get advice by ringing the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 08454 04 05 06.

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