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MSE News: OFT targets copycat websites

edited 30 November -1 at 1:00AM in Consumer Rights
13 replies 1.8K views
MSE_GuyMSE_Guy MSE Staff
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edited 30 November -1 at 1:00AM in Consumer Rights
This is the discussion thread for the following MSE News Story:

"The Office of Fair Trading has opened investigations into a number of websites that charge people for government services that are available either for free or for a lower price. ..."
Read the full story:
OFT targets copycat websites



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Replies

  • ReaperReaper Forumite
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    The watchdog shut down a number of fake EHIC websites last August after it found many tricked consumers into paying, though the OFT still gets complaints (as do we) about other similar sites.
    Makes it kind of pointless. They take ages "investigating", then eventually close them down, then they spring back up under another name.

    Unless the owners are heavily fined or the watchdog closes them down on the day they start up it's easy money and nothing will change.
  • whatmichaelsayswhatmichaelsays Forumite
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    Are these services actually illegal though? Consumers deal with 'middlemen' every day so is there anything that is actually unlawful about these companies? Unethical arguably, but illegal?

    And the above point is right - anyone could start one of these businesses very quickly with little more than a Wordpress internet theme and a few quid on Google Adwords. If the OFT is really concerned that these 'paid for' services are achieving greater prominence in SERPs, then perhaps it needs to pressure the relevant government bodies to improve their SEO strategies?

    As always, it comes down to consumers to educate themselves. My housemate paid £9 for his EHIC through one of these sites - he just chalked it up to his own stupidity / laziness to look into it further.
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  • metcalfgmetcalfg Forumite
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    Grrrrr :mad:- recently renewed my EHIC after googling it and coming across eu-healthcard(dot)com - I did get a card but the robbing gits charged me £9.99 where it should have been free from the NHS. Pleased the OFT is doing something finally. Don't get fooled people!
  • taxsavertaxsaver Forumite
    620 posts
    MoneySavingExpert.com has regularly warned of sites that charge consumers for services that are free such as European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) applications, applying for child benefit and getting a tax refund

    OK, some of these sites need looking at, especially for the likes of Child Benefit claims and EHIC, which require nothing to be done really.

    However, tax refunds are totally different as these can and often are a much more complex area. Accountants quite simply wouldn't exist (or would be very much fewer in number) if tax was simple!! People are often helped to obtain refunds that they would not even know they could obtain without the knowledge and skills of the adviser and dealing with HMRC is rarely straight-forward - especially when they are being asked to give money back!!!!
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  • Edinburghlass_2Edinburghlass_2 Forumite
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    Another one to add is driving theory tests where if you aren't careful you end up paying £19 extra to sit the test than if you go through the official website.
  • Sceptic001Sceptic001 Forumite
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    Why does the government accept third-party applications for EHICs etc?

    Banks don't accept third-party applications for bank accounts.
  • MSE_GuyMSE_Guy MSE Staff
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    Sceptic001 wrote: »
    Why does the government accept third-party applications for EHICs etc?

    Banks don't accept third-party applications for bank accounts.

    Interesting point
  • edited 14 July 2011 at 6:29PM
    tifotifo Forumite
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    edited 14 July 2011 at 6:29PM
    I don't really understand what they're going to investigate.

    If it's websites pretending to be governmental then that is wrong, but if it's someone providing a service, like an accountant, when the consumer is too lazy to do it themselves then there's nothing wrong. And the charge is irrelevant, it's what the buyer and seller agreed to pay. Much like the banks' computers charging £35 (less now) to decide on the informal overdraft request. Or a solicitor charging £60 a letter when it takes him/her 5 mins to do.

    If something is free but the consumer can't be bothered to research and make use of it, why should someone else get penalised because they're providing a service. That's a bit like saying claims management companies shouldn't exist because consumers can get all the info they need from this forum, but is the consumer going to sit here hours and hours taking in all the info for a DIY claim? Or that accountants shouldn't be able to do self assessment and tax credit forms because the consumer can fill it themselves.
  • ReaperReaper Forumite
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    tifo wrote: »
    I don't really understand what they're going to investigate.

    If it's websites pretending to be governmental then that is wrong, but if it's someone providing a service, like an accountant, when the consumer is too lazy to do it themselves then there's nothing wrong
    It's the former. There is nothing wrong with providing a service if people understand what they are getting, but if you are trying to confuse people into thinking you are the official site and getting them to pay when you are not adding any value then that is wrong. Try it yourself - type EHIC into Google. Due to paid ads the top 3 results are:
    https://www.euheathcard.org
    https://www.nhs-ehic.org
    https://www.ehic.org.uk

    Which one do you think is the real one?
  • ReaperReaper Forumite
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    tifo wrote: »
    I don't really understand what they're going to investigate.

    If it's websites pretending to be governmental then that is wrong, but if it's someone providing a service, like an accountant, when the consumer is too lazy to do it themselves then there's nothing wrong
    It's the former. There is nothing wrong with providing a service if people understand what they are getting, but if you are trying to confuse people into thinking you are the official site and getting them to pay when you are not adding any value then that is wrong. Try it yourself - type EHIC into Google. Due to paid ads the top 3 results are:
    https://www.euheathcard.org
    https://www.nhs-ehic.org
    https://www.ehic.org.uk

    Which one do you think is the real one? Now check and see if you are right.
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