Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) has received several calls alerting them to an online company charging £49 for a blue badge application whereas the council charges just £10 for issuing a badge and no charge to apply.
The company appears prominently when people do an online search for how to apply for a blue badge and the link leads to what has been described as a copycat website.
Jody Kerman, OCC’s trading standards operations manager said: “‘Copycat websites’ is a term that describes websites which charge consumers a premium price, over and above the official government service that could be found on the GOV.UK website.”
These sites are commonly known as ‘copycat’ websites because they offer services from government departments and contain features similar to that of the official site making it appear as though they are ‘official’ or ‘authorised’.
Many of these companies use website tools to achieve high positions in search engines often ranking them higher than the official site, and most charge a premium for a service that is often provided much cheaper or even free by government departments.
Mrs Kerman added if someone was having problems with the blue badge application process, they could find help online at www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/disabledparking or by calling OCC on 01865 792422.
To avoid copycat websites, look for ‘.GOV’ in the web address, read the information on the website carefully to check it’s the official service and do not automatically opt to use the first websites found in a search engine, even if the address seems authentic.
Copycat websites can be reported to the national consumer advice helpline on 03454 04 05 06.