https://gds.blog.gov.uk/2014/03/02/report-a-misleading-website-to-search-engines/

Report a misleading website to search engines

Government services have been getting a growing number of complaints from people who feel misled by websites which charge for access to public services that are either free or much cheaper when accessed via the official GOV.UK website.

Examples include people trying to renew their passport or driving licence, book a driving test or apply for a European Health Insurance Card via the NHS.

Example of google search  result and advert
Example of a legitimate advert above Google’s search results. If you feel misled by an advert, Google has a simple form to let you report your concerns.

Many people complain that they felt these third-party websites did not provide of any value over and above the service already available on the official service, accessed via GOV.UK. Some of those complaining felt misled into thinking such 3rd party websites were actually the official, government-run service.

The vast majority of people end up on such websites after clicking on an advert appearing above the normal search results on Google, Bing or Yahoo.

If you feel misled by such an advert, Google now has a simple form to let you report your concerns.

We have been working with Google, by far the largest search engine in the UK, to tackle this aspect of the problem. Over the past few days, Google has  stopped selling adverts to some of the websites which have been the cause of many complaints.

But Google remains very keen to hear from people who feel misled after clicking on such adverts appearing above their search results.  This will help them remove such adverts as quickly as possible.

If you feel misled by such an advert, Google now has a simple form to let you report your concerns.

Google now offers a simple form to let you complain about misleading adverts
Google now offers a simple form to let you complain about misleading adverts

We would encourage people to complain to Google if they feel aggrieved, since this may prove the swiftest and most effective way to fix this problem.

You can also report concerns about potentially misleading adverts appearing above Bing and Yahoo! search results.

On a related note, if you’re concerned about phishing emails, or other Internet scams, visit this page on GOV.UK.

56 comments

  1. David Potts

    Wouldnt an screengrab showing one of the pay-services be more useful than a grab of a legitimate service?

    Link to this comment Reply
    • Tom Loosemore

      I did consider it, but I wanted to make it clear that is for Google/Bing/Yahoo! to determine whether an individual paid-for advert is misleading their users.

      Link to this comment Reply
    • b jackson

      my daughter has just lost £72 renewing her passport to be told it has gone to a third party disgusting

      Link to this comment Reply
      • Amanda

        im really disgusted! my daughter has been charged and extra £40 on top of the price for her tax disc. there is no point canceling your card as they take the money out straight away!
        DO NO USE THIS WEBSITE TO RENEW YOUR TAX DISC
        http://taxdisc-direct.co.uk
        THE DVLA ARE AWARE OF THIS SITE AND TELL YOU TO CONTACT THEM DIRECT, HOWEVER YOU DO NOT GET A RESPONSE OR YOUR MONEY BACK!

        Link to this comment Reply
        • david

          just had my bank statement and have also been charged £40 by taxdisc-direct.co . there was no mention of any charge and it looked like the gov website ,been done by a website that shouldn't even exist.

          Link to this comment Reply
  2. Philip

    All government departments spend millions every year on TV advertising for Health,welfare, road safety, floodline etc, etc etc. On these adverts could they not have a banner going across the screen similar to a football result upadate, that consumers should only to go GOV.UK for passports, mot, ehic card etc. Think Mr Cameroon calls it "Joined up Government".

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    • Andrew

      Yes we should adverise GOV.UK more, however what is even more importanat and I am very suprised that GDS have not implemented it – is the ability the the customer to authenticate that they are actually on the real website. Frauders etc can clone the look of a site. The only sure fire way to safe GIOV.UK and hence all Government Departments online is to use security certificates. We will need our certifcate to be held by an external Certificate authority eg Verisign and then we would have a seal on our website. By clicking on the seal it allows authentication. That way customers know they are on the correct website and their data is safe etc. Would also pave the way for Goverment external email. We would sign the email with our private key. The recipient can verify our digital signature as will be stored (the public key) by the external certifcate authority. Going digital without having authentication procedures in place could be problematic in the future (Andrew, HMRC)

      Link to this comment Reply
    • Liz

      Having just applied for an EHIC renewal and was surprised to find the legitimate NHS application is via https://www.ehic.org.uk/ and not a NHS or GOV.UK domain, and barely looks like an official site. I backtracked to NHS to check the link as I thought the site could be a scam. Following on from Philip's comment, shouldn't GOV services be on a GOV (or NHS) domain?

      Link to this comment Reply
  3. alex

    Another issue now is that so many companies are trying to scam well known brands e.g. telephone ; banks that customers simply delete all mail, in order to be safe.

    It's too difficult to tell the difference.

    Could there not be a CIFAS equivalent where citizens can send advice of scams, so Government, Industry and Charities can protect their brands and close down the scam firms.

    Link to this comment Reply
  4. Graham

    Its far from clear how consumers actually access the complaint form on Google. Can you clarify

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  5. Graham

    Tom the links above are clear enough. The issue is whether access is clear enough in Google. I was wondering how a consumer would access the complaint form after coming across an adsite. When you are in Google it is far from clear. I certainly couldn't find it. And I had read the post.

    Link to this comment Reply
  6. Wasting Tax

    Yet again the government is wasting our money on protecting looking into this. What next lessons on how to go to the high street shops!

    Why would anyone not go to gov.uk /nidirect.gov.uk and then the correct department – that is how to protect yourself.

    Link to this comment Reply
    • Tom Loosemore

      While starting your journey on GOV.UK is a way of protecting yourself, the fact is that 75% of people start by entering a search term on a search engine, typically Google in the UK. Only 7% visit the GOV.UK homepage. We have to recognise the reality of users' behaviour.

      Link to this comment Reply
  7. John W

    Is it not about time that websites/companies that offer similar and unnecessary services to Government Services (like passport renewal) at a rip-off price conning the unsuspecting out of thousands of pounds a week (eg like Passport Direct) be made illegal. They hang onto legality by a VERY fine thread and can even, on a bad day, con those with the savvy to normally avoid such websites.

    The law would have to ban the website/service even where they pretend to include other services like renewal reminders. Tricky but by no means impossible if the Government had the will to do it.

    Currently ‘Trading Standards’ have hundreds of complaints a week about these sites.

    Link to this comment Reply
  8. Patrick

    The Yahoo! 'report potentially misleading advert' link above does not seem to work. Do you have an alternative link?

    Link to this comment Reply
  9. Sam Trivella

    I went on to http://www.gov.uk/ taxdisc went on to first website it asked all appropriate questions do I have a valid mot etc so thought it is all official only to find out afterwards that I ended up paying a service charge of £40.00 I chose to buy a disc for 6 months at £79 as I could not afford to pay for a 12 month disc only to be charged extra £40.00 and then they say it is all legal how can this be legal if they had nothing to hide why did a total of £119.00 not come up at the end for you to then agree, if you buy on amazon the postage is added on afterwards and then you can opt to proceed or not.
    I feel that this is fraudulent as how can they accept money that you are paying to the government and not to them to pass on, I bet if they did not pass it on something would be done very quickly about it.
    Well now I am out of £40.00 how do I make ends meet when things like this happen I guess I have to live on beans and toast of soup all because this is legal my poor children now have to do with out as it seems it is legal to rip off people ?????

    Link to this comment Reply
  10. Mike Cloud

    Scam companies should be banned from using words like "Gov.uk" or DVLA in their web-address that is designed to con people into paying more for the same services. These companies are based on fraud and do not advertise their fees until they withdraw the money from bank accounts. Government departments, Google, Trading Standards and Advertising Standards should do something to outlaw these companies and force them to identity their fees upfront.

    Mike

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  11. David Mitchell

    We have just experienced this scam first hand and it is not pleasant. How can these companies get away with it? I feel something more should be done to stop these website from being allowed to from looking so official in the first place and duping the public out of there hard earned money. They have offered us £8 back from a £60 scam, what a rip off.

    Link to this comment Reply
  12. Peter Eric Stokes

    I think that a website containing the wording DVLA or GOV. UK which is not the official websites of the uk government or the department for vehicle licensing authority should be prosecuted for both fraud and deception and the law should be changed rather quickly to prevent further losses to ordinary people who are just trying to obey the law by trying to tax their vehicles online, which by the way is encouraged by the government. The way things are going the ordinary person in the street will be taxing their vehicle at the post office, I know I have just been defrauded of £40.00 and I will certainly be using the post office from now on.

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  13. MRS K WOODHOUSE

    I'VE JUST TAXED MY HUSBANDS CAR OVER THE INTERNET AND BEEN CHARGED £166 WHEN THE CAR TAX IS ONLY £126.50 WITH THE £2.50 EXTRA FOR PAYING WITH YOUR BANK CARDS, I HAVE BEEN ON THE PHONE TRYING TO CANCEL MY PAYMENTS AND THEY HAVE SAID I CANT IM SO ANGRY YOU THING DOING IT ON THE WEB WOULD BE BETTER BUT I DEFINATLY GOING THE POST OFFICE FROM NOW ON. I ASKED MY BANK ABOUT THE PAYMENT AND THEY SAID ITS DVLA LONDON

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    • Carrie Barclay

      Hi Mrs Woodhouse. Could you let me know what website url you visited to make this transaction? Thank you.

      Link to this comment Reply
  14. Mike Galloway

    I'm commenting here so others can see, I have already made contact with GDSTeam via Twitter. I was alerted to the url http://www.gov.uk/misleadingwebsites which ends up here by government consumer minister Jenny Willott on BBC Radio 4 Money Box today in a recorded interview.

    I am really surprised and disappointed that the really good effort by GDS generally appears to have "misled" by government spin in this instance and has allowed the government to claim they have got somewhere with the search engines dealing with this issue when clearly there has been little real change. Is it Google seem to think they are above all UK laws, not just tax laws? I like and use Google services, but they really need to be far more responsive to public concerns.

    A search I did earlier today for – tax disc – brought up the following http://bit.ly/1rPo2ZE result which had an Google Adwords advert at the top – something the article above impliessays Google claim to have stopped accepting!! The search results give the correct one to the government website as result 1 – but the second result is to another "misleading" (I'm happy to say scam, fake, con, fraudulent – let them sue me) website. In fact they both appear to be from the same outfit but with different urls.

    As others have said here, if the current law is not strong enough to deal with these scam merchants and shut them down then new laws should be implemented urgently. But I am sure there are more than enough ways the existing law can be used – including against Google if they fail to act.

    Additional funding for Trading Standards is all very well, but the initial need surely is to remove all reference to these "misleading" websites from Google that is the way now by which most people access things on the web, and to take down the websites concerned.

    It is clear these sites are preying on peoples vulnerability and are pretending to be government websites – a mention in small print that they are not associated with the real website is next to useless.

    This needs centrally by central government – NOW!! Anyone getting this page is probably savvy enough to realise a site is a scam before actually using a site; or has already been scammed.

    Following from what someone else has said above, such sites are sure guilty of "Fraud by false representation". Under section 2(2) of the Fraud Act 2006 "A representation is false if (a) it is untrue or misleading, and (b) the person making it knows that it is, or might be, untrue or misleading." – that seems to describe these sites perfectly? An attempt to make the true position clear by a VERY small print disclaimer does not make the false representation any less misleading!

    This needs centrally by central government – NOW!! Anyone getting this page is probably savvy to realise a site is a scam before actually using a site; or has already been scammed.

    We can all be conned, I have been when I should have known better. Whilst I was a Cabinet Member for (amongst many other things) Trading Standards at a local authority I was conned by an outfit that claimed to be reconditioning car engines, ultimately taken down by Met Police who recovered over 400 cars. We look to regulators to regulate.

    There will be some instances where there will be "added value" but any websites (or print media etc) promoting such services should not make any attempt to pretend to be the government website.

    Mike Galloway
    @MikeGalloway

    Link to this comment Reply
  15. Tony Williams

    The elections are coming ! Make your m.p. know u are not happy with these gov sites. That should be illegal

    Link to this comment Reply
  16. CBen

    Whatever happened to:
    1. copyright? Surely the appearance of a site is the copyright of the authors and therefore people stealing the code are breaking these laws. By not protecting our Intellectual Property the government is not protecting our assets.
    2. Bank's responsibility for the legality of the payments. If each site was to be declared as fraudulent by code stealing straight away and the banks being made responsible from that point on for the return all disputed payments then the banks would properly check companies involved in this business.
    If the site is providing a legitimate service in a proper way the government can license the code for the forms making the bank's work very easy.

    Link to this comment Reply
  17. Jane

    Is the link to the complaint form working correctly? It appears to be getting stuck.

    Link to this comment Reply
    • Carrie Barclay

      I've just checked and the link seems to be working fine – if you continue to have problems please let me know. Carrie

      Link to this comment Reply
  18. tan

    do you actually get a tax disc off this company

    Link to this comment Reply
  19. Angela from Wolverhampton

    I went on to http://www.gov.uk/ taxdisc – a couple of days ago to renew my tax disc and went on to the first website listed – it asked all appropriate questions do I have a valid mot etc so thought it is all official only to find out afterwards that I ended up paying a service charge of £40.00! I chose to buy a disc for 12 months at £110 only to be charged extra £40.00 and then they say it is all legal how can this be legal if they have nothing to hide why didn't a total of £150.00 come up at the end for you to agree? I feel that this is fraudulent as how can they accept money that you are paying to the government and not to them to pass on, I bet if they did not pass it on something would be done very quickly about it. Well now I am out of pocket of £40.00 how do I make ends meet when things like this happen I am also currently unemployed and without an income is it legal to rip people off – obviously, the DVLC are not too concerned about these goings on, also, if you notice when the tax disc arrives it has a different visa number to the one you paid with, plus a £2.50 handling fee – this is their visa card! they use it when they go on the official website to buy your tax disc! Finally, when I attempted to go back onto the website earlier this morning, I left my number for them to call me – they never did or will do AND now the website has "mysteriously" disappeared from Google!! My advice is to cancel your card details and get another.

    WHO is going to pay us back our £40???????

    Thank you.

    Will anything become of this message? Will or is anyone doing anything about it? I am also going to send this to Watchdog

    Link to this comment Reply
    • Carrie Barclay

      Hi Angela. Thank you for your message. The gov.uk url to renew your tax disc is https://www.gov.uk/tax-disc. From what you've said here it would appear that you typed the information into Google and then chose a search result from the list.

      The best place to find government services and information is to start on http://www.gov.uk. If you feel misled by an advert, use this form to report the website to Google: https://support.google.com/adwords/troubleshooter/4578507?rd=1. ]

      We have been working with Google to tackle this aspect of the problem. Google has stopped selling adverts to some of the websites which have been the cause of many complaints.

      Link to this comment Reply
    • Ren

      Just shut these sites down, I have just paid £196 for a £156 tax disc plus £2.50, let me know when you get act together, meantime I'll be using the Post Office

      All the best

      Link to this comment Reply
  20. Steph

    Copy cat road tax site scammed me of £40 when renewing tax.
    Busy mom the web address shouldn't be able to advertise itself as directgov
    The colour scheme to is the same and when you have a child demanding your attention at same time these scammers shouldn't be allowed to operate

    Link to this comment Reply
  21. Carrie Barclay

    The best place to find government services and information is http://www.gov.uk. If you feel misled by an advert, use this form to report the website to Google: https://support.google.com/adwords/troubleshooter/4578507?rd=1

    Link to this comment Reply
  22. Richard

    I was a victim of http://www.gov.uk/taxdisc and I am supposed to pay £79.75 for six months road tax. I checked my bank It was deducted £119. I was scammed £40. I phoned the DVLA and they say. I clicked the wrong websites. The websites was misleading because I went to http://www.gov.uk/taxdisc. Please don't pay your tax disc on this websites.

    Link to this comment Reply
  23. Jackie Gale

    I lost £40.00 when renewing my tax disc on line. I searched http://www.gov.uk/taxdisc as detailed on the V11 official form and arrived at a copycat site all too easily. A site that charged me £40 for a service I didn't need or want. Please just go to the Post Office to renew your vehicle tax in future!.

    Link to this comment Reply
  24. Andy

    I was totally duped by this site.
    Even when the additional £40 was taken from my account, I believe that the DVLA had made an error.
    When complaining the reply was tagged as 'DVLA Support'.
    Replies led one to believe that the DVLA had outsourced the work!
    It was only when a DVLA complaint form was filled in that I learned the whole truth.
    Even then the DVLA took ten full days to respond when they must have known instantly that a scam had occurred.
    The site is set up to look as close as possible to the DVLA site and it is only when you go back and give it a second look that you spot the warning and see the full horror of the terms and conditions.
    The T and Cs are well hidden and the first time most people realise that they have made a grave error is when they see their bank statement.
    This practice may not be illegal but it is immoral and action needs to be taken to remove such sites.
    The Google complaint form is far from easily accessible and they need to do a better job of creating a clearly designed, readily accessible form for consumers to use when they have a concern. The current form seems designed for those advertising on the site rather than for 'the man on the Clapham omnibus'.
    The creation of a site to mirror the authentic site is a clear attempt to deceive the public. Judging by the proliferation of sites listing complaints from those who have been scammed the deception is clearly a very good one. Someone is clearly lining their pockets on the basis that people in a hurry or who need to renew only annually are prone to make an error! This must impact heavily on those with low incomes who fall foul of this immoral practice.
    There must be a way in which such sites can be made illegal and removed from search engines. If not the authorities are themselves complicit in such scams.

    Link to this comment Reply
  25. John West

    this is a total waste of time and just lets crooks get away with online cons there seems to be no sanction for sites masquerading as official govenment offices

    Link to this comment Reply
  26. Peter

    I have just renewed my car tax on line. I thought that I was on the official Government site, but upon checking my bank, I have found that I have been stopped an extra £40.00.
    The site I had been switched to was taxdisc-direct.co.uk. Please be aware of this as you will lose your £40.00 as there is no refund.

    Link to this comment Reply
  27. Martin

    I've just had the same thing happen, los and feels like the official government site, color, green triangle, correct content, lots of methods of other services etc. But it's not, £40 extra for more effort than the official site, surely this misleading set up is illegal, if so many people get yelled up by it then a reasonable person is misled my it, hence it's wrong. They should be shut down and forced to pay back the extra plus interest as set by the fsa.

    Link to this comment Reply
  28. Mahomed

    I have just renewed both my car and my wife's, and two days later found out i have been charged £80 for both, this is disgusting and should be stopped, i sent a complaint to http://www.asa.org.uk i also tried http://www.gov.uk/misleadingwebsites…. NOT happy at all taxdisc-direct.co.uk should pay back. and be forced to shut down, the government should do something to stop this happening

    Link to this comment Reply
  29. Lesley-Anne

    I have just found out that although I thought I had renewed my tax disc 3 weeks ago the dvla has no record of this and the website taxdisc-direct.co.uk appears on my credit card statement and has charged my £220.00 for a £180.00 tax disc but 3 weeks later no disc! So £220 for nothing. I had no idea I was on a scam website.
    Surely this cant be legal?
    My credit card company has told me I have to pay the bill and try to claim it back but not to hold my breath!

    Link to this comment Reply
  30. Karen green

    I bought the baby's first passport on 12th June to see my bank had been charged £66 rather then £46 it's a piss take, the site that scammed me was http://www.UK-Passport.NE. It's really not fair from now on I'm not applying online at all stick to post office

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  31. Ana

    EHIC card… I've been charged £49 for EHiC cards that are free on the legal website.
    I wrongly applied on https://www.ehic-uk.org/
    I have been trying to contact them to refund the money and haven't received any answer.

    Link to this comment Reply
    • Carrie Barclay

      Hi Ana. Thanks for you comment, and sorry to hear that you feel you have been mislead by a website. You can find out more about how to report a misleading website as part of our #StartAtGOVUK campaign on this page: https://gds.blog.gov.uk/startatgovuk/

      Link to this comment Reply
  32. Lesley Cork

    I have been charged £49.00 for the renewal of an 'FREE' EHIC card, from ehic-uk.org, I was not shown this charge nor asked to confirm I wanted to pay this charge before submitting .
    Also if you dispute this charge you have to raise ' ticket' on their web page, you cannot then redispute or query their findings of said dispute as you can only open one 'ticket' and cannot add to your inital complaint. This is payment for nothing as they are in rality a postal service.

    Link to this comment Reply
    • Carrie Barclay

      Hi Lesley. Thanks for your comment, I'm sorry to hear that you feel you have been mislead by a website. To report the site and learn more about our #StartAtGOVUK campaign please follow this link: https://gds.blog.gov.uk/startatgovuk/

      Link to this comment Reply
    • Brenda McWilliams

      Brenda McWilliams – 20/01/2015

      I have also been charged £49 to renew my EHIC card. I have tried to cancel the payment several times, with no success. Every time I tried to contact them, the message came back reference number ( which they had supplied me with does not exist ).

      Thier website EHIC-UK.ORG requests a payment of £23 for EHIC renewal, and £49 for a new application, In my case there could be no confussion, due to the fact that I supplied all the details they asked for as stated on my existing EHIC,

      I received the same info as Graham, i.e that thier email address had changed, to the link provided, which turns out to be the official EHIC.nhs.

      I received an email from them last night (19th /Jan /2015 ), informing me that It appears I had forgotten to pay for my application, and requesting that I re-apply.

      Checking with my bank today, the £49 had already been taken out of my account. I bet if I was silly enough to re-apply, they would have taken another £49 from me.

      I entirely agree with Graham, that these sites should be removed.

      Link to this comment Reply
      • Bernardo

        I have the same problem with http://www.ehicuk.org. I have paid 49 without asking me for confirmation, and no possibility of contacting them whatsoever. That was on 8th of January 2015 and i did not received any card yet.

        Can anyone let me know if they have received them.

        Tank you

        Link to this comment Reply
  33. Graham Cullimore

    I fell for the scam trying to renew EHIC card I was charged £49 thinking it was the official site ,within minutes of realising I had been conned I tried to cancel on the site EHIC.org but was told their e-mail address had changed and to go to link provided.when I went to this link it was the EHIC .nhs official site. These rogue sites should be removed !!!!!

    Link to this comment Reply
  34. Charlotte Palmer

    Both my boyfriend and I got conned out of £117 each for a free appointment at the passport office thinking we were paying for our passports when we got to the passport office we were shocked and horrified to find no appointment booked for my boyfriend and that we had paid a third party instead; http://www.britishpassportservices.co.uk took our money for an appointment that is free to book direct.
    These sites often state in the very small print that they are not affiliated with the government, however they clearly portray themselves as offering the same service as the official government website. I feel really conned.

    Link to this comment Reply
  35. Patricia Marchand

    The google form to report a misleading google advert does not work!
    Terrible many things nowadays cannot be reported so one just wonders if the public is really protected.

    Link to this comment Reply
  36. Penny

    It is good to see that I am not the only one who has been conned. Not just being a pensioner who is unfamiliar with the Internet.

    Link to this comment Reply

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