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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Under new state pension rules we will all be much worse off
Budget 2015: George Osborne is set to get tough with further cuts in public spending
Simon Read: 'Savers, take action - only £75,000 of your nest-egg will be protected'
Simon Read: 'Taylor Swift tickets purchased on Viagogo were cancelled hours before the concert'
Bank-beating exchange rates on your international payments
- 1 Michelle Watt's father says TV presenter killed herself because she was in constant pain
- 2 Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
- 3 San Francisco TV news crew attacked by armed robbers during live broadcast
- 4 Greek debt crisis: The photograph that conveys the despair of Greece's elderly
- 5 Miami defendant sobs in court as he realises he and the judge attended the same school
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Greece crisis: The wider lesson is that it’s time to abandon this failed experiment in currencies
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
iJobs Money & Business
£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company offers a range of ...
£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisors are r...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....
£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Compliance Manager is require...
Day In a Page
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.
Moored in Chelsea's Cheyne Walk, this houseboat offers two double bedrooms and a teak deck that's ideal for al-fresco dining.
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.
Less than five miles from Malmesbury, this four-bedroom cottage comes with equestrian facilities and gardens that extend to approximately three acres.
Spanning three storeys, this late-Victorian five-bedroom farmhouse is a spacious family home with a modern interior and B&B potential.
With an original church arch, this triplex one-bedroom church conversion has a light, spacious, feel and comes with a secure off-street parking space.
This recently-refurbished three-bedroom home has bi-folding doors that lead out to a decked seating area - ideal for alfresco dining this summer.
Well-located for coastal walks and popular restaurants, this detached four-bedroom home offers views over farmland, to the Solent, the Purbecks and Bournemouth.
If you love high ceilings, school conversions like this one are bang on the money. This two-bedroom flat is minutes from Burgess Park and the foodie haven at Borough Market.
Set within a church conversion in Bermondsey, this two-bedroom maisonette combines existing features, such as original arches and brickwork, with a contemporary finish.
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 four-bedroom Edwardian home offers a combination of original features and contemporary design after a renovation by the current owners.
This four-bedroom home offers a vaulted ceiling in a breakfast room that's ideal for summer entertaining with doors that open to the patio and garden.
On the market for the first time in more than 50 years, this six-bedroom home is a project with vast potential - spread over three floors of living space.
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.
Surrounded by rolling countryside, this four-bedroom barn conversion comes with a self-contained, one-bedroom annexe that could serve as an office or a holiday let.
Located near Harrogate town centre, this five-bedroom Victorian terrace is arranged over three storeys while a current study serves as an optional sixth bedroom.
A ground-floor flat in a country house, located a mile from Sway; this two-bedroom home would make an ideal weekend retreat on the edge of the New Forest.
On a popular residential lane in Caterham on the Hill, this four-bedroom family home offers a secluded garden and a convenient location for local schools and public transport.
Just a short walk from Westerham green, this three-bedroom cottage has a light kitchen with exposed brickwork and double doors that lead to a south-facing garden.
In a prime spot opposite the River Thames, this one-bedroom flat has an 18sq ft reception room with glass doors that open out to a private terrace.
Set in the hills above Llanwrda Village, west Wales, this 18th-century three-bedroom farmhouse has holiday-let potential from a separate barn conversion and annexe.
This charming end-of-terrace townhouse is arranged over three floors, with two double bedrooms and a private courtyard garden located at the rear of the property.
Located in the University area, this semi-detached five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors - there's even a rear garden and off-road parking too.
Only a few minutes' drive from the charming town of Marlow, this two-bedroom home sits on the private riverside estate of Harleyford.
This detached four-bedroom home in Middleyard is arranged over two floors, with features that include a wood-burning stove and bespoke oak staircase.
In a row of eight detached Georgian residences, this five-bedroom home offers views of The Sound, Mount Edgcumbe and Cornwall from its impressive veranda and full-length balcony.
If you love cooking for friends this two-bedroom flat - complete with views of the iconic Battersea Power Station and an open-plan kitchen/dining area - will go down a treat.
Located above Grasmere village, this five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors and offers countryside views across Grasmere Lake towards Silver Howe.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with a double carport, useful workshop, garden and two walkways that offer views of the adjacent countryside.
With space for an equestrian business, a greenhouse for growing your own veg, a wine store and a gym; this five-bedroom home has all the ingredients for a country retreat.
The decked roof terrace of this two-bedroom flat is perfect for summer drinks while large windows and ample storage space make for a light and spacious interior.
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.
Surrounded by approximately 15 acres of grounds, this six-bedroom grade II-listed home has been extensively refurbished yet retains many period features.
This four-bedroom home comes with a two-bedroom cottage and commercial office, with planning to extend, in a stunning courtyard setting.
In a pretty Norfolk village, this four-bedroom family home is surrounded by landscaped gardens, with even a self-contained annex for guests.
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.
This five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors of a converted Victorian hospital, offering spectacular views of the Pentland Hills - only three miles from the city centre.