Questions of Cash: My son paid website for a driving licence form he could have got free
Saturday 15 February 2014
Q. I am very unhappy about the website drivinglicence.uk.com. My son paid £50 to apply for his first provisional driving licence. He searched on Google and went to the first hit, which he assumed was the Government's website. He knew there would be a £50 fee for a driving licence so was not surprised to pay this. He had no idea that he was paying an intermediary service, which was not official and just posted the application forms to him.
He then received paperwork from drivinglicence.uk.com in the post. This consisted of a DVLA application form to be completed and returned to DVLA in the enclosed addressed, but unstamped, envelope. He was advised to send a photo and the £50 fee with the completed form to DVLA. To make things worse, any queries are answered by a premium-rate phone number, at a cost of £1.53 per minute. HS, Bristol.
A. This type of website profits from consumer confusion. The problem is made much worse when search engines – and this seems to be specific to Google – on occasion show unofficial websites higher than official websites.
However, these sites have not been found to have broken the law and so are allowed to continue to trade.
We approached drivinglicence.uk.com, whose Jamie Wyatt responded: "We feel that complaint [sic] made in respect of [the reader's son's] application with our service has been addressed fairly and have no further comment to make."
We then contacted Google. Its spokeswoman said: "We have a set of policies which govern what ads we do and do not allow on Google.
"Our 'sale of free items and official services' policy makes it very clear that we do not allow the promotion of sites that charge for products or services that are otherwise available for free, unless they clearly mention that the original service is available for free elsewhere, provide a working link to the official source where they can get the free service and accurately represent the added value they are charging for. If we discover sites that are breaking this policy we will take appropriate action."
Reference to Google's policies shows that advertisers must clearly state they are not government websites and the advertiser is not permitted to make a charge if they are providing services of "little or no additional value to the user".
Our final effort at resolving your son's problem was to contact his bank, RBS. It, too, said it was unable to assist. Its spokeswoman explained: "I'm afraid we are not in a position to refund the customer as there has been no error."
Costly mistake of not using official passport office site
Q. I read through a passport application form on what I believed was the official Passport Office website. I completed the form and submitted it. Only afterwards did I find that I was on the website of passport-uk.co.uk and had been charged £69, when the service was free through the Passport Office. PD, by email.
A. We took this up with your bank, Lloyds, to request a refund. Its spokeswoman said: "We are not in a position to do a charge back as the completed passport application has been received. The cardholder paid for a check and send service and within the terms and conditions, it advises no cancellation can be made."
We phoned passport-uk.co.uk, but the call went to an automated system, where the message stressed that this is a private service and unconnected to the Passport Office.
Tax return gateway charged me £400 to file my return
Q. I went online to file my tax return. I found a site via Google and the top listing was for the Tax Return Gateway, which I believed was an official HM Revenue & Customs website. But it is not and I ended up paying £400 just to file my tax return. IA, by email.
A. You tell us that while the Tax Return Gateway came up first when you did a Google search. When you conducted a similar search with other search engines Yahoo and Bing, the genuine HMRC site came out top. When we conducted our own search with Google, the official website also came out top – but we believe that the algorithms used by Google take into account users' past search histories, not only the current search terms.
In all three of these cases, readers contacted us primarily as a warning to others to be wary when making payments to websites they believe are government sites. While government bodies do charge for some services, they don't for sending out forms. It is therefore essential to know what is being paid for, to read the conditions attached to any payment and to be certain that what may appear to be a government website is genuinely that.
Questions of Cash cannot give individual advice. But we’ll do our best to help if you have a financial dilemma. Email us at: email@example.com
Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk
Bargain Hunter: Exclusive discount on a SmartGlider - a self-balancing electric scooter
My Tinder date asked for a refund when I declined a second meet up
10 tips for taking out a personal loan
Number of parents moving to their desired school catchment area is increasing, according to Santander research
Bank-beating exchange rates on your international payments
- 1 More than 11,000 Icelanders offer to house Syrian refugees to help European crisis
- 2 If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
- 3 Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
- 4 Make your voice heard: Sign The Independent's petition to welcome refugees
- 5 Refugee crisis: Aylan's life was full of fear - in death, he is part of 'humanity washed ashore'
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up
iJobs Money & Business
£20000 - £40000 per annum + OTE + Incentives + Benefits: SThree: Established f...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE 40/45k + INCENTIVES + BENEFITS: SThree: The su...
£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company was established in...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE 40k: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 busi...
Day In a Page
With four bedrooms, this spacious maisonette in a mid-terrace period-style house in Holland Road is well-maintained and offers high ceilings and period features.
The terraces of this two-bedroom penthouse apartment offer panoramic views that stretch over fifty miles from the cliffs of Beachy Head.
In the heart of the coastal village of Mumbles and moments from the pier, this five-bedroom Victorian terrace is set over three floors and retains many original features.
In a sandbanks location, moments from the beach, this three-bedroom apartment has a large open-plan living area and a south-west facing balcony.
This four-bedroom home has an annexe accessed from the side of the house, with potential for improvement and conversion subject to the necessary permissions.
In the heart of the hamlet of Wardley, this five-bedroom period home offers countryside views and a stylish interior, with original features and open fireplaces.
Offering countryside views and landscaped gardens, this three-bedroom Grade II-listed lodge has a spacious conservatory and a large cellar that could serve as a workshop.
Set in approximately 1.5 acres, this four-bedroom home comes with a second, detached property that's currently used as an annexe.
In the hamlet of Newchurch, this former parish church is now a four-bedroom home complete with clock tower and eyrie.
Offering scenic views from a large balcony and sun terrace, this four-bedroom home has a wraparound garden and a heated swimming pool.
Offering views across the Humber and East Yorkshire Wolds from a glass panelled balcony, this four-bedroom barn-style home befits a life of leisure.
This four-bedroom home offers versatile accommodation with annexe potential; features include a hot tub, sauna and Norwegian BBQ hut.
Well-located for schools, colleges and the town centre, this contemporary thatched cottage offers flexible living space with six bedrooms.
Built in 1907, this four-bedroom Edwardian period home has been refurbished by the current owners, retaining many original period features.
Surrounded by landscaped gardens, this five-bedroom home offers living space across three floors.
This lovely country home in Burnham Market is currently run as a popular holiday cottage, with five en suite bedrooms and colourful gardens.
This three-bedroom 17th-century former village bakery is just a few miles from the East Sussex coast.
Set on a landscaped plot, this light and airy four-bedroom home comes with a log burner in the lounge, a fitted kitchen and an open-plan ground-floor layout.
Set sail for this four-bedroom farmhouse in Cowes. With five acres of land and an indoor pool, this home oozes character. There is even potential to let a one-bedroom annexe.
Built on a former chapel site, this impressive four-bedroom home boasts balconies, stunning views and contemporary modern living.
This three-bedroom house is situated in a quiet mews and set over three floors. Features include glazed staircases and high ceilings.
A period townhouse set over four floors, this five-bedroom home was built in the 18th Century and retains many original features.
With five bedrooms, this spacious home offers beautiful gardens and modern interiors - set within the popular market town of Bingley.
A few miles from the seaside at Perranporth, this four-bedroom farmhouse sits amongst nine acres of idyllic grounds - including a lake and two barns used as holiday lets.
In the pretty market town of Bungay, this grade II-listed Mill House is arranged over four floors, offering four bedrooms and three reception areas.
This first-floor flat comes with two bedrooms, an impressive open-plan reception room and two lovely roof terraces.
This five-bedroom home comes with a range of outbuildings including a large barn which could be converted into a self-contained granny-flat or rental.
Moored at Taggs Island and reached via a pretty garden, this two-bedroom houseboat has a vaulted reception room and skylit garden studio - currently a beauty salon.
On the edge of the city, this six-bedroom home comes with an outdoor swimming pool and a large garage block that has annexe potential.
A contemporary house spread over three storeys, this three-bedroom detached home has large sliding doors that open out to the River Quaggy.
Moored in Chelsea's Cheyne Walk, this houseboat offers two double bedrooms and a teak deck that's ideal for al-fresco dining.
This former village bakery, dating back to the 17th century, is now a three-bedroom detached home just a few miles from the East Sussex coast.
On the picturesque Isle of Man, this four-bedroom character home has a ground-floor shop that's currently run as a newsagents and a flat that would make an ideal holiday let.
In a new collection of flats, this first-floor two-bedroom apartment offers ample entertaining space and a prime view of Furze Green from a private balcony.
This three-bedroom stone-built cottage currently trades as the village store with a restaurant in the annexe and family accommodation on the upper floors.
Previously two semi-detached properties, this five-bedroom home is spread over three floors with a large breakfast kitchen, orangery, office and gym on the second floor.
This five-bedroom home enjoys countryside views over the Blyth estuary to Southwold, offering flexible living space with a ground-floor annexe - ideal for use as a holiday let.
Close to the market town of Eye, this four-bedroom detached home offers a double-height living room which takes the place of the original, 19th-century, chapel nave.
Dating back to the 19th century, this four-bedroom home needs modernising. Spanning three storeys, the red-brick house has a fireplace, a small terrace and a cellar.
Just outside of Cambridge, this single-storey home offers three double bedrooms, a living room with vaulted timber ceiling and ladder steps that lead to a mezzanine study area.
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn.
A former coach house, Glebe Farm Stable is now a three-bedroom cottage with a double car barn, an attached office, kennels and an outbuilding that's currently used as a gym.
Located beside an impressive Victorian viaduct, this four-bedroom home has an open-plan living area that is glazed on two sides, with skylights and high ceilings.
A former furniture workshop, this three-bedroom home has high ceilings and painted brick walls, in a village setting only fifteen miles from the coast.
This five-bedroom stone townhouse features a pine staircase and an Inglenuk fireplace, double doors from the lounge give access to an enclosed courtyard.
This five-bedroom, detached home blends traditional and modern design; the sleek kitchen features a gas hob and oven set within an exposed chimney breast.
Capitalise on the fabulous views of Trevone Bay by taking two homes and creating one spacious boutique B&B. Just a cliff-top walk from Padstow.
Surrounded by woodland, this five-bedroom manor house has plenty of outdoor storage space in the form of three converted loose boxes, two smaller outhouses and a woodstore.
This six-bedroom home is set amongst three acres of grounds. Currently a large family home, Clift Hill has potential to make a B&B or countryside retreat, subject to change of use permissions.
This Grade II-listed three-bedroom home is situated on a private road, just a short walk from the sandy beaches of Frinton-on-Sea.