Monthly Archives: January 2014

How to Recognise an Internet Rip-off

Ripped off on the Internet

My Cousin was Ripped Off

Today my young cousin, Sarah, nearly 17, applied for a provisional driving licence via This site looks official, and invites you to “APPLY NOW” for your new or replacement licence. She checked “First Provisional Licence (with a view to passing a test)” and pressed the NEXT button.

Panel accepting fee from non-DVLA driving licence websiteThe site then made it very clear that she would have to agree to the £50 fee before going any further. This page shows the Visa and MasterCard logos and “guarantees” that “Your information is 100% secure.”

Now, £50 is what your first provisional licence costs, so that all look fine. Let’s get on with it!

Trouble is, when you’ve finished this process, you still have to pay another £50 to the DVLA for your licence. The “service” this website provides is simply to collect your details and pass them on to the DVLA. You can avoid the extra £50 charge by going directly to the DVLA’s own website, at Note the “.gov” in the website address, or URL.

Sarah’s mum was incensed, naturally! “How,” she said, “Can we get the money back?”

Sadly, the answer is, “With great difficulty, and you’re unlikely to succeed.” It’s just possible you might win a prosecution in the Small Claims Court. After all, one could argue that the panel above is misleading. It does imply that the £50 you’ll pay them is the “Application Fee” for your provisional licence. Sarah believed so; they’ll say you’re applying for their service.

Is it Legal?

Probably yes. It may be morally wrong, but it is probably legal. The website makes it very clear that it has nothing to do with the DVLA, which issues driving licences. It is also very clear that the service will cost you £50, that their (very long and likely to remain unread) terms and conditions apply, and if you continue then you’re committed to the fee.

To be fair, Google does try to encourage sensible website choices. The relevant .gov websites appear before (and others – yes, there are others) in many search results. And there are plenty of discussion forums that warn against scams like this. Check Mumsnet and Money Saving Expert

So What Should We Tell Our Kids?

dot gov logo

“Look for dot guv, love!”

If you’re looking for any service provided by the government, make sure you can see “” in your browser’s address bar. Most have this government website logo, too.

Where to Look for .gov

Here are some examples (at the time of writing) in Google Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer. Also look for a little padlock and the code, https:// to the left of the web page address.

a dot gov web page example in Google ChromeGoogle

a dot gov web page example in FirefoxMozilla

Microsoft’s Internet Explorer is different in that the padlock appears to the right of the address.

a dot gov web page example in IEMicrosoft