Rip-off websites are charging drivers up to £80 for driving licence services which are available free via the DVLA.
The unofficial websites are asking up to four times as much as the real cost for some services and charging unsuspecting drivers for other services which cost nothing if done through official channels.
The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), which handles issues such as driving licences and vehicle logbooks, has now urged motorists to be on the lookout for these exploitative sites and offered advice on how to avoid them.
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Searching for topics such as “driving licence renewal” or “apply for a driving licence” brings up multiple results from firms offering to handle the process. These sites aren’t affiliated with the DVLA in any way but are often designed to look like official services.
Drivers still have to enter the same details they do on the official DVLA website but are then charged an additional administration or handling fee. In some instances these are as much as £80 on top of any official DVLA fees.
That pushes the cost of applying for a provisional driving licence up from £34 to £114 and means anyone changing the address on the licence or vehicle logbook will be charged £80 for a service that is free via the DVLA’s own website.
In the last 18 months the DVLA has received more than 1,200 complaints about websites purporting to offer its services.
Guy Anker, deputy editor at MoneySavingExpert.com, said: “These copycat sites aren’t illegal, but they dress up like legitimate webpages, and use clever tricks to appear higher on search engines. They get you to fill in forms, which requires no more work on your part than if you’d done it yourself via the official sites, and then they overcharge you for ‘administration’ or ‘services’ – which is really just passing it to the relevant body, with no extra work involved. These services are usually free or much cheaper if you do it yourself, which can leave a very sour taste.
“The obvious red flag that you’re on a copycat site is if you’re being charged for something that’s usually free – such as updating your vehicle log book (V5C) when you’ve changed your address. Another tell-tale sign is the web address, so if you should be on a government website, carefully inspect it to make sure it says GOV.UK. It’s also worth knowing the true price of a paid-for service – in the past we’ve spotted firms offering ‘checking services’ for driving licence renewals at a cost of £60, more than four times the £14 it costs to do it through GOV.UK.”
Julie Lennard, chief executive of the DVLA, added: “GOV.UK is the only site where customers will find our official services, many of which are free. You may be charged a premium when using other websites offering services that are not connected to DVLA.
“We recommend you always double check you’re using GOV.UK when accessing our online services or looking for information. This means you won’t be paying more than you need and can be sure that you’re dealing with us directly.”