Customers are fleeced by paying more for services, including the congestion charge plus visas, than they require to
There are a bunch of slimy toerags whom create sites which trick folks into paying £1.50 a minute to ring free services like phoning NHS Direct plus DWP benefit helplines, or lure them into paying £10 for a European wellness insurance card whenever they’re free, or charge £50 for what ought to be an £8 US visa. Now unsuspecting visitors to London are being targeted with websites which mislead motorists into paying 50% over they must for the congestion charge.
Linda (not her real name) had not driven into the congestion charge location for several time. In a “tearing hurry” she went about to Google plus, found on the initially website to come up, paid the £15 fee. Just later did she realize it wasn’t the official Transport for London site, plus which the real fee was £10.
“I paid the additional fiver before I realised it wasn’t an official site. The condition was which I hadn’t employed the congestion charge because before Christmas plus thought vaguely it could have changed formatting. Idiotic I understand, nevertheless I was inside a rush.”
Linda had created the mistake of going about to londoncongestion.com, that pays Google to ensure it comes at or close to the top of the look whenever somebody kinds inside “London congestion charge”. The official TfL website is further down the page. Yes, londoncongestion.com has an “avoidance of doubt” content inside its text-heavy front page telling consumers it happens to be not TfL, yet it obviously wasn’t observed by Linda.
As far because you are aware, websites including londoncongestion.com pass the income about to TfL, nevertheless pocket between £5 plus £8 every time somebody pays. TfL claims its legal department has been about to the look engine services to take action up against the unofficial websites. However whilst Bing plus Yahoo! complied, they have had small achievement with Google.
So I tried monitoring down that is behind the websites. It turns out which londoncongestion.com is registered to Esta Visa Ltd, inside Knighton, West Tisted, Hampshire.
Esta Visa Ltd has shape inside this region. In December 2011 it was rapped by the Advertising Standards Authority for a misleading “Apply for the free Ehic card today” advert that has been about a website with all the url nhs-direct.org.uk, however, had nothing to do with all the NHS. In September 2012 the ASA upheld another problem against Esta Visa over a misleading advert.
Esta Visa furthermore, unsurprisingly, attempts to persuade travellers to the United States to pay £20.99 for a visa waiver whenever the official Department of Homeland Security site charges $ 14 (£8.80).
It should be a fantastic company, this, striving to receive persons to pay for an official document whenever it’s free, or perhaps a super-inflated fee above the standard charge. You might apply it to anything …and, indeed, they are doing. Want to purchase a rod licence? They cost £27 at the Environment Agency. However tap “rod licence” into Google plus what comes top? Rodlicence.net, that charges £38 for the same thing; a tiny note at the bottom of the page claims “Please note which Rodlicence.net is not associated to or affiliated with any Government body.”
The Angling Trust last year warned members to not employ RodLicence.com plus raised its concerns with all the Environment Agency. It has today disappeared, yet Rodlicence.net has opened inside its spot. And that runs it? We might have guessed it by now: Esta Visa Ltd, the same mob doing londoncongestion.com.
None of these websites might create their owners any revenue when they weren’t at the best of the paid-for Google position which result in the look engine thus hugely successful. Google temporarily blocked adverts for a couple of different websites I alerted those to, however, is happy to keep taking revenue from Esta Visa to advertise londoncongestion.com. It appears which because lengthy because a website has a “well-defined link to the official website … and also explanations found on the services they offer about the official site”, then it’s not inside violation of Google rules.
So beware. Folks like Linda might carry on being fleeced when the website owners – plus Google – share inside the income. And you is certain small of those income is taxed. What’s Google’s motto again? Don’t be wicked?
Personal finance plus income information, analysis plus comment | guardian.co.uk
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