People are being warned to think twice before using websites to pay for services that they can either get for free or may not even need.

People applying for, or renewing, passports online are being urged by Wolverhampton Trading Standards to watch out for hidden fees on unofficial websites.

Searching online using terms such as 'passport renewal' is unlikely to put the official Government Passport Service at the top of the results list.

Instead, the websites that appear first are those offering a check and send service for a fee. These websites are not linked to the Passport Office - the organisations simply check that the application has been completed correctly before sending it on.

Though this service can be useful, those taking advantage of it will pay what may turn out to be an unnecessary 'checking' fee, often around the same as the cost of the official passport fee - which still has to be paid on top.

Similarly, there have been a number of concerns raised to Wolverhampton Trading Standards by people who have used websites other than the Government's official site to book driving tests. Again, an administration fee is levied by the third party organisation which books the test, but this can be done without an administration fee through the official government site.

Andy Jervis, Wolverhampton City Council's Head of Regulatory Services, said: "We would always advise people to be very cautious and stick to official government sites when making transactions like renewing passports and other documentation or arranging things like driving tests.

"Regarding passports, we would advise anyone who does require a checking service to use the Post Office. Although it will incur a small charge, this will be much less than that levied by the unofficial websites. People who qualify for a free passport, such as those born on or before 2 September, 1929, also qualify for a free check and send service from the Post Office.

"Equally, driving tests can be arranged quickly and easily through the official government website, and we would urge people do this rather than face paying an additional fee for the privilege."

For more information about renewing passports, booking driving tests and more, please visit Type=links;Linkid=3172;Title=GOV UK;Target=_blank;

  • released: Monday 10 February, 2014