The Office of Fair Trading (OFT)) is to launch an investigation into websites that sell the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which are available for free.
The regulator has confirmed that is will be looking into websites that offer the EHIC for a charge, often of around £10 to £15. The card is freely available to UK citizens via the official NHS site and the Post Office, and can be used in addition to travel insurance to provide emergency medical treatment in EU countries. It can also be used in Denmark, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
EHIC traders breach consumer law
The type of companies that the OFT is investigating emerge high on Google and other search engine rankings and as sponsored links on search results pages. Many appear to be official, offering a wealth of information, but are not associated with the NHS.
In the cases the OFT is investigating, people are paying to get a EHIC, but receiving no additional benefit.
It is an offence under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (CPRs) to present ‘rights given to consumers ion law as a distinctive feature of the trader’s offer’.
Cavendish Elithorn, senior director of the OFT’s goods and consumer group said: ‘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. We will be considering whether any of the sites under investigation are misleading consumers.
‘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.’
More info on EHIC and travel insurance
For further information on EHIC and the reason why it is not a replacement for travel insurance, visit the EHIC advice guide.
Which? Money when you need it
You can follow @WhichMoney on Twitter to keep up-to-date with our Best Rates and Recommended Provider product and service reviews.
Sign up for the latest money news, best rates and recommended providers in your newsletter every Friday.
Or for money-saving tips, and news of how what’s going on in the world of finance affects you, join Melanie Dowding and James Daley for the Which? Money weekly money podcast
For daily consumer news, subscribe to the Which? news RSS feed here. And to find out how we work for you on money issues, visit our personal finance campaigns pages.