OFT to probe sites selling free government servicesFindings will be published later this year

12 August 2011

The scales of justice held up

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is investigating a number of websites selling consumers government services they can either get for free or for greatly reduced prices.

The consumer watchdog said it will be looking at sites which charge consumers to apply for European Health Insurance Cards (EHICs) and those imposing vastly inflated prices for services such as booking a driving theory test.

The OFT declined to name or put a number to the websites under investigation. 

But last year it took action against online traders www.ehic.org, www.thejwsgroup.com/ehicservice and www.ehic.uk.com for deceptively selling consumers EHICs. 

For more information on buying safely online, take a look at our Which? Guide

EHICs provides UK residents with access to state-provided healthcare in European Union countries for reduced or zero cost.

Consumers can get the cards for free but the OFT found some online traders were charging consumers £10 per application and did not make it clear that they were not the official NHS site.

Cavendish Elithorn, senior director of the OFT’s goods and consumer group, said: ‘We will be considering whether any of the sites under investigation are misleading consumers. 

'It’s 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.'

It expects to publish the results of its findings later this year.

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