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article imageOp-Ed: Website scams UK motorists to part with more money Special

By Tim Sandle     Apr 3, 2014 in Travel
London - A website has been set up for U.K. motorists who are paying their annual driving tax. The problem is, the site charges a handling fee, unlike the official government website, and it can take multiple payments, according to one concerned reader.
Each year in the U.K. motorists are required to pay a "road tax." This is an annual levy towards the cost of maintaining the highways. The amount paid depends on the engine size of the vehicle.
In the U.K. the tax disc (or ‘vehicle license’) comes in the form of a paper disc three inches in diameter to be displayed on the vehicle, and is evidence that the necessary vehicle excise duty has been paid for the specific vehicle. It is placed on the left side of the windscreen if it is a four wheeled vehicle, but if it is a two wheeled vehicle then it should be placed in a holder fixed onto the bodywork. This paper tax disc is scheduled to be phased out and replaced by an electronic system from October 2014.
The fees are collected by a U.K. government agency called the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). The agency charges no handling fee.
Unfortunately several websites have been set-up which look very similar to the DVLA website. These websites charge a handling fee; however all they do is collect someone’s credit card details and pass these to the official government website.
One concerned U.K. citizen called Victor Grayson contacted the Digital Journal about these ‘pretend’ websites.
Victor explains: “I needed to renew the road tax on my Ford car. I typed in ‘road tax repayment’ into Google and I was directed to a website. The website looked the same as the official DVLA site, with the same symbols and pages. The only difference I later discovered was the colors of the website are different (the DVLA is white and green whereas this dodgy site is white and orange.”
The site is question was called taxdisc-direct.uk.com. The site has based its design on the official one, making it more likely that users will believe they are using the Government's own renewal website: taxdisc.direct.gov.uk.
Victor is very worried by the site: “It looks the same as the official site, but it charges users a handling fee of £40 (around $60). All it does is direct the payment towards the DVLA. I wouldn’t mind if this was upfront, but the website is designed to look like the official site.”
A similar warning comes from the consumer group Motor’s UK: “One such website, taxdisc-direct.uk.com, has even been modeled on the official DVLA site, using the same colour scheme, fonts and layout in a bid to dupe unwitting motorists with an expensive administration fee.”
Victor’s ire is not only confined to the handling free. “I am very annoyed”, he explains. “I put in my credit card details and clicked pay. A message came up ‘card declined’. I tried again and got the same message. A while later I tried for a third time. Same thing.”
Victor explains that a day later he searched via Google and found the official DVLA website and paid his road tax. A few days later he checked his credit card statement and found that three payments of £165 had been taken by the website. “They put up a message saying ‘card declined’ yet they took my money. Three times for the same road tax for the same car!” Victor explained, getting angry.
“I tried the number on the website. It turned out this was the number for the official DVLA, and they have no relationship with this scam website. I have tried emailing them, but they haven’t had the decency to reply.” Victor says that he is considering taking legal action. In the meantime he warns “Everyone in the Britain who pays road tax should steer away from this disreputable website.”
Whilst Victor thinks that the U.K. government should be doing more, the Daily Telegraph reports a government spokesman saying: "The Department for Transport is aware of several websites not connected to DVLA or the official government website that are offering services to customers who are applying for tax discs and driving licenses. The Office of Fair Trading has ruled that websites which charge additional fees and services are not acting illegally.
"The Government, led by the Cabinet Office, is taking action to tackle rogue websites and is working with organizations such as the Advertising Standards Authority, the National Trading Standards Board, Which? and search engines, including Google, to raise awareness of this issue and to ensure enforcement action is taken where appropriate."
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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