Jenny Willott MP writes…Cracking down on copycat websites

imageThe internet has made life a lot easier in many ways for many people – I can hardly imagine a time when I wasn’t able to make online bank transfers, get a grocery shop delivered or book a holiday online. However, as we all spend more time online and use the internet to do increasing numbers of things, new problems and challenges arise which we have to address.

People deserve the same protection online as they get offline, and we need to make sure that we have the ability and resources to ensure this is the case.

Unfortunately, one problem area is misleading websites that try and palm themselves off as legitimate government services. These sites frequently encourage consumers to pay a fee or an extra charge for a service that is readily or freely available from the official website. They may also require those accessing them to share information that is personal and should be held securely.

The unfortunate reality is that a minority of people are exploiting those who are perhaps less web-savvy, duping people into believing they are using the official government channel to access Government services.

We need to clamp down on these copycat websites which con people out of their hard earned cash. That’s why, as the Consumer Affairs Minister, I recently announced £120,000 of extra funding for Trading Standards.

This money is helping National Trading Standards Board (NTSB) to tackle these rogue traders, and also to crack down on websites that exaggerate the nature of the services they provide or deliberately underplay that people can get them for free or at a lower cost from official sources. The Government is also working with search engines to ensure these misleading websites can’t pay their way to the top of the list of search results. Google has recently removed some websites from their pages and has agreed to keep monitoring the situation and take down future copycats that are identified. The Government has set up a website to make it much easier for people to report these sites as they find them. Anyone who finds a copycat site can report it here.

Using the internet to order new official documents, like passports or birth certificates, can save people lots of time and effort, and can save the government money in providing these services. But of course the process must be clear and secure. Rogue traders who use misleading websites to con people need to know that the full glare of Trading Standards is now on them.

Photo: Some rights reserved by SEOPlanter

* Jenny Willott was the Lib Dem MP for Cardiff Central and chaired the working group on working age social security policy in 2016.

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This entry was posted in News and Op-eds.

One Comment

  • Eddie Sammon 23rd Apr '14 - 9:29pm

    Thanks Jenny. Some radical liberals think people should be “free to copy” because apparently electronic data isn’t “scarce”, but it’s completely not true because websites take time and money to build and maintain. I think the stuff about misleading websites is important too, but the government also has misleading websites, such as the armed forces recruitment pages.

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