Avoid unnecessary fees for European Health Insurance Card and UK Passports

Highland Council Trading Standards is warning consumers to be on the lookout for websites demanding a fee when making an application for the NHS European Health Insurance Card (or EHIC) or UK Passport application.  Searches on the internet and consumer complaints received by the service show that many websites are offering to “review” or “forward” an application form for an EHIC or UK Passport.

David MacKenzie, Highland Council Trading Standards Team Leader explains: “The websites look official but if you scroll to the bottom you will find a tick box asking for cash.  Some websites state they provide a ‘fast track’ service for an extra fee on top of a ‘small service charge’ or ‘application processing fee’.  Charges for processing applications can range from between £19.99 to £23.50.” 

Highland Council’s Trading Standards want to make consumers aware that the EHIC card can be obtained free by going online and completing a simple application form through the official website at: www.ehic.org.uk. 

Highland Trading Standards Officers are also concerned about unofficial websites offering to ‘review’ and ‘forward’ UK Passport applications as well as scam emails and websites claiming to be part of the UK Border Agency. The UK Border Agency has reported instances of consumers receiving ‘cold-call’ telephone calls from persons posing as UK Border Agency officials requesting an up-front free for UK Passport applications.

Recent advice from The UK Border Agency has warned members of the public to be on their guard and not to respond to any suspicious emails, phone calls and websites regarding UK Passport applications.   The UK Border Agency also state that they never use free email accounts such as Hotmail, yahoomail or gmail to contact members of the public.  All enquiries and online applications for a UK Passport or travel visas can be obtained through the UK Border Agency website at: http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/

Members of the public can report suspicious phone calls regarding applications for passports or visas to ‘Action Fraud’ on 0300 123 2040 or report suspicious emails or websites online at:  www.actionfraud.police.uk.

Mr MacKenzie adds: “While it isn't unlawful to charge for a reviewing and forwarding service, tricking consumers into spending on unwanted services is. If a consumer thinks they may have been duped into sending off a fee for either an EHIC card or an additional fee to review and forward their UK Passport application they should report this matter to us.”

Consumers can contact Highland Council’s Trading Standards directly either in person or in writing at: The Highland Council, Trading Standards Service, 38 Harbour Road, Inverness IV1 1UF or speak to an advisor on 08454 04 05 06.

For further Highland Trading Standards news please go to: www.highland.gov.uk

17 Jul 2013