North Yorkshire County Council’s Trading Standards Officers are warning the public to take care if they are applying for or renewing a passport on-line.
Some passport application sites charge a fee equal to, and on top of, the official fee so the passport ends up costing double the amount it should.
Complaints are being received from consumers who believe they have been misled by websites that look official but are run by private companies. The firms operating these websites offer a “check-and-send service” for a fee but they are not linked to the Passport Office in any way. They simply check whether the application has been completed correctly and then send it on to the Passport Office.
North Yorkshire Trading Standards is warning people to check their options carefully if signing up for a check-and-send service when renewing a passport. Officers advise that people should consider whether a friend or relative could double-check the form, but if they would rather use a paid-for service then they should research the charges that different firms make.
At the lower end, the Post Office charges a few pounds for the service, whilst private company fees vary but can be ten times that amount. Moreover people who qualify for a free passport also qualify for a free check-and-send service from the Post Office.
When applying for any government documentation such as passports, driving licences or European health insurance cards people should make sure they go directly to the official website www.gov.uk
The passport application form can be found at https://www.gov.uk/apply-renew-passport
Trading standards advises that people should not follow links to other sites claiming to be ‘official’ but using web addresses featuring suffixes such as .org.uk; .net or .co.uk.
County Councillor Chris Metcalfe, North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for Trading Standards said:
We’ve had a steady stream of complaints from people applying for passports during this summer season who have been charged unnecessarily large sums of money for a passport application checking service. We would advise people to be very cautious and stick to the official government site.
Anyone who feels they have been misled by such a site can obtain advice by ringing the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 08454 04 05 06.