Websites that impose a charge on consumers for offering government services that are free are to be ...
OFT to crack down on misleading websites selling free govt services
Websites that impose a charge on consumers for offering government services that are free are to be investigated by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), it has emerged.
The organisation has announced a crackdown on sites that charge for the services which are available directly from the government either at no cost or for a lower fee, such as those offering European Health Insurance Cards (EHICs).
Among the issues to be examined are whether the websites are trying to deceptively present themselves as official government services, which the OFT says is an unfair commercial practice.
Last year the watchdog closed four websites that were charging for free EHICs. Its latest round of investigations will also look at sites that charge higher fees for services such as booking a driving theory test.
"It is important that companies are clear about the service they are offering, and do not trick people into paying for something that they can get for free or much cheaper on government websites," says Cavendish Elithorn, senior director of the OFT's Goods and Consumer Group.
"With summer holidays approaching, many people will be making applications for EHICs in particular, so we encourage travellers to take time to check that they are using an official government website."
As we reported recently, an EHIC entitles the cardholder to state-provided healthcare in the country they are visiting on the continent. However, it will not cover the cost of serious accidents, extensive treatment or air ambulance repatriation, making it vital to have travel insurance.