As the summer holiday season approaches and consumers look to renew their travel documents, they should beware of websites that charge for checking services.
Northumberland County Council’s public protection service is advising that checking services are often provided free or for a fraction of the cost, through official sources.
Complaints have been received from consumers who have made applications for Passports and European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC), formerly the E111, where they have paid for a checking service thinking that the website they were using was that of the official government department.
Although the websites look genuine they are merely a checking facility before applications go to the appropriate body.
The websites do explain what they do in their terms and conditions but many consumers do not read these and have no idea they can go elsewhere.
Coun Dave Ledger, policy board member for public protection, said: “Times are tough for everyone at the moment, and consumers should not have to pay more than they are obliged to.
“These websites provide a service that is legal but doesn’t give consumers anything of value.”
Call the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0845 4040506 to report concerns.