Case reference number: CRE/0648
Complainant: OFT own-initiative investigations
Summary of work
The OFT has decided, on administrative priority grounds, to close its
investigation into websites which charge consumers for processing
applications for a range of government services, such as European Health
Insurance Cards (EHICs), which are available free or at a low cost if
obtained directly from the government.
The investigation examined whether there had been an infringement of
consumer protection legislation, in particular the Consumer Protection
from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. Among the matters investigated,
the OFT looked at whether these websites were deceptively presenting
themselves as official government websites.
The OFT found that in most instances the sites investigated carried
statements explaining the nature of the service provided and disclaiming
any official status or affiliation with the government.
The OFT also worked with central government to help official government
websites appear more prominently when searched for online.
The OFT prioritises its work in accordance with its published
. Broadly speaking, it focuses its efforts and resources on
deterring and influencing behaviour that poses the greatest threat to
Based on the results of its investigation and the improvement in online
searches, the OFT has concluded that potential for significant consumer
detriment is low and there is insufficient evidence of breaches of
consumer protection legislation to warrant prioritising formal
enforcement action in this instance. It may reconsider its decision in
the future if it receives further evidence of suspected infringements,
or its prioritisation assessment changes.
The OFT is, however, concerned that people visiting a website that
charges for processing applications for a government service may not
always be aware that they can save money by going direct to the
government, so has issued a consumer alert to help raise awareness and
warn people to be cautious when entering their card payment details
The OFT is unable to provide advice or resolve individual complaints for
consumers. The Citizens Advice consumer service provides free,
confidential and impartial advice on consumer issues. Visit
www.adviceguide.org.uk or call the
Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 08454 04 05 06.
Published 1 November 2012