A friend of mine emailed this week asking if I heard of the website drivinglicence.uk.com as they had just paid them for, what they believed to be, a driving licence for their daughter. They Googled DVLA, as you would, and found this website at the top of the search results – the sponsored search results.
They filled in the form, paid their money and waited patiently for the driving licence – only to be sent a form which they then needed to forward onto the DVLA and pay AGAIN for the driving licence they thought they had already paid for. In effect they have to pay twice for the driving licence, all because they fell for this awful trick.
So how did this happen?
The sad truth is most people who don’t work online don’t know the difference between Google’s organic results and the paid results, which is where sites such as this manage to fool people. Where the DVLA website ranks #1 in Google for a search on DVLA (as it should) and it also ranks #1 for many associated search terms, it’s only sites like drivinglicence.uk.com which pay for sponsored listings and thus ‘appear’ to rank #1 to people who aren’t quite so Internet savvy.
In good faith these people will click on the first result and pay their money for what they believe is an application for a driving licence, when what they’re really paying for is a ‘checking service’, one which isn’t needed in the first place. The website simply checks the data you’ve entered to make sure you’ve filled in the right boxes, and charges you for the privilege. So you’re paying for nothing.
So how is this even legal?
The website says on its homepage:
The checking service we provide can be obtained from a DVLA office directly at a reduced fee or you can apply without a checking service where there will be no checking fee payable.
It’s this statement which keeps this website on the side of the law, but a statement many people won’t read or even notice. They’ll simply see the site ranked at the top of Google, click ‘apply’ and pay their money, as all of these people have done, and these people.
As you can see from the comments on the site, many have telephoned to make complaints to drivinglicence.uk.com (as my friend did) but few receive a satisfactory answer, with some even being cut off from the call. The company knows it is conning people who believe they’re paying to renew their licence, and it doesn’t care.
There are many website such as this charging people for services which are otherwise free, such as the many PPI claims websites and companies charging people a percentage of their winnings for simply sending a letter – a letter you can send yourself for free. They’re parasites sucking money from people who are fooled by their tricks.
My advice is to avoid websites such as this and ensure, before you enter any payment details, you’re on the official site for whatever it is you’re trying to do and you carefully read what it is you’re going to get. Under the Distance Selling Regulations you can demand your money back from scammers such as these, but they don’t all play by the rules or the law, so you may find that’s a dead end.