The Office of Fair Trading is investigating dodgy websites that charge punters for government services which are available for free. Given the crapness of government websites, it often takes some amount of digging before you find what you want. Enterprising conpersons are getting their sites further up the Google rankings and …
Confusing gubbmint website; not in this case
The EHIC government website is perfectly fine; and the staff were brilliant; at very short notice were able to add my son to my wife's card - even exercising discretion and able to find my wife's card under a previous address, and transfer her and my details to a new address (without prompting or transferring to another dept). One phone call, job done.
If we'd make the mistake of picking any of the top 10 google results; we'd have paid up to twenty quid, and they wouldn't have been able to get the job done.
This isn't a gubbment failing, quite simply it's unscrupulous organisations gaming search engines and conning the public.
As well as attempting to regulate the internets or get google to act in a responsible manner, it might be more effective to ban 3rd party applications (and black list the numbers/addresses they use)
in oz you can do your tax return online (www.ato.gov.au/etax/) or alternatively pay $AU35-40 for the same thing at http://www.etax.com.au or http://www.australiantax.com.au. It's not really a problem with tax offices offering (though i'd appreciate an non-windows version).
The folk running these sites aren't breaking any laws but clearly fail the "would it fool your mum" test -and i don't see a simple answer (that isn't wrong)
Scum rising, as usual
There are a lot of site which swamp the upper reaches of search-engine lists through various sorts of trickery. And government official websites are generally both squeaky clean, and poorly optimised.
What I often see is less a web than a decision tree, which means that the actual pages we want to find, fail to have the features of a well-connected, useful, web page. They're not going to encourage you to click on that Facebook button to signal that you "like" the webpage. They're not going to do anything to get a link from Boing Boing. They are essentially passive.
That can. in some ways, be a good thing. But it does put them at a disadvantage.
Site - restricted search
Most of here know this, but if you add
(note the leading dot) to a google search then it restricts the answers to URLs in that domain.
Or enter your search, click on "advanced search" and the domain restriction is at the bottom of the page.
This is good advice, but you also need to search .nhs.uk some of the time, eg if you want an EHIC.
Block the applications coming through third parties.
Check volumes against IP addresses, and don't allow Dodgyscammer Ltd. to apply for anything in the name of Joe Bloggs.
Government Sites Should Use Government Domains
I recently applied for an EHIC and while my search immediately found the official site for applying online it took me a further half an hour to verify that it wasn't a scamming site as the official site is ehic.org.uk rather than ehic.nhs.uk or ehic.gov.uk!!
Why don't they give it a proper domain instead of one that anyone could register???