Copycat websites 'rip-off' condemned by MP Chris Evans

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Media captionWebsites can legally charge for their services and many make this clear

People applying for passports and driving licences online are being "ripped off" by copycat websites charging extra, says a Welsh MP.

Islwyn Labour MP Chris Evans said that people have been tricked into paying up to £1,000 more than they should.

He told the Commons that such companies were able to charge additional fees quite legally but used "underhand methods" to "fool" people.

Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey said rogue websites were being closed down.

'Over the odds'

"Copycat websites are a part of a growing industry which exists purely to trick the public out of their hard-earned money," said Mr Evans.

"It thrives by using underhand methods to fool people into paying way over the odds for government services."

Image caption Chris Evans says people are being charged up to £1,000 more than they expect

Mr Evans added that his staff faced "a wall of silence" when trying to contact any of the people behind such websites.

"It seems that when faced with scrutiny the companies that run them shut them down," he said.

The MP called on the UK government to amend the Consumer Rights law to stop misleading websites and invited the companies running them to come forward and defend their activities.

Taxing experience

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Image caption Car tax discs are one area used by copycat websites

Tom Williams, 75, from Cefn Forest near Blackwood, was alarmed when he found he had paid more than he expected for renewing his car tax online.

"When I checked my bank account I found I'd been charged an extra £40," he said.

"I went back online and found the website I used had a very small note in the corner saying I would have to pay an extra charge.

"I took it up with Caerphilly trading standards - it seemed identical to the DVLA website."

Mr Williams had the £40 refunded after challenging the charge.

Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey MP said: "Sites that do try to palm themselves off as legitimate government services need to be stopped and that is something on which we are all in agreement."

He said internet search engines were being asked to remove advertisements for misleading websites which were more prominent than the official websites.

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