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Copycat driver websites raise concerns



An agreement under which Transport for London alerts drivers paying their congestion charge via unofficial websites should be evaluated by government departments, MPs say today. The House of Commons Transport Committee says the arrangement to warn drivers they are paying over the odds "is an interesting model" that the Department for Transport could extend to other areas in which misleading "copycat" websites operate.

In a report on executive agencies running services for drivers, the committee also urges the Government Digital Service takes more action against unofficial sites. It asks the GDS to provide specific details of its progress so far in identifying and alerting search engines to misleading websites offering services to motorists, and to report on what enforcement action has been taken against such sites.

However the MPs concede there is a role for websites that legitimately add value. "Motorists who choose to use a 'reviewing and forwarding' service should be free to do so and the providers of such services may not be doing anything illegal."

Overall the committee says that digital services developed by the motoring agencies- Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) and the Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA) - 'are popular and well used'. It welcomes the multi-channel approach being taken by the agencies, but says the agencies need to have effective "assisted digital" strategies in place to help those who cannot or are unwilling to use the internet to access services as new digital services are developed and rolled out.

The report also raises concerns about the re-use of data and charges imposed. "There are widely-held concerns that the DVLA profits from the sale of the data it holds on drivers," it says, noting that the agency says it currently makes a small loss on charging for inquiries from parking companies. It says the DVLA should make clear on its website how the costs are calculated.

The Department for Transport should also "drive forward a culture change in the approach to sharing data between the motoring agencies and their enforcement partners and should identify the steps that need to be taken to ensure data is accurate and can be shared in a timely way to support the work of the agencies and enforcement bodies".

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