Google blocks copycat ads that catch out the unwary

Guardian Money has scored a victory in its campaign against websites that charge rip-off prices for services such as passport renewal

Filling in a self-assessment tax return on the HMRC website costs nothing, but some taxpayers claimed they paid hundreds of pounds to a copycat website. Photograph: Linda Nylind for the Guardian

Websites that trick the unwary into paying over the odds for government services such as passports, driving licenses, European health insurance cards and the London congestion charge have been removed from the top of Google search pages in a victory for Guardian Money’s long-running campaign against rogue “copycat” websites.

Guardian Money began its “Stop these sites” campaign in June last year; it highlighted “official UK passport application” sites which paid Google to appear above the official government site. Guardian Money consistently argued that Google should switch off the ability for copycat sites to buy space above the search results for official government services.

After 10 months, Google appears to have taken heed, though loopholes remain. A search for “national insurance number” still produces a page where commercial sites sit above the official HMRC information listing.

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