The European Consumer Centre Ireland is advising consumers looking to make travel visa applications online to make sure they are using official websites.
The warning comes following a number of complaints received by ECC Ireland about websites offering to process visa for travel to the United States (ESTA visas), Canada (eTA visas), and other countries. The consumers believe they have booked through official channels but then discover that they have been charged far more than they had expected due to additional administration costs being applied per visa.
Martina Nee, ECC Ireland spokesperson, said: “We strongly advise consumers to be prudent when looking online for visas or when applying for other official documents. ECC Ireland has received complaints about third-party websites that, at first glance, look very similar to official sites but which charge much higher fees. Watch out for ‘copycat’ sites that may appear as sponsored ads at the top of a search engine result. These often appear more prominently than official websites and so it’s very easy to click on these first.
“Read the terms and conditions thoroughly, paying particular attention to any reference to management or other fees being applied on top of the cost for the visa itself – an official site would not charge extra for the processing of an application. There have also been cases where the total price to be paid has not been made sufficiently clear. Make sure to verify the final payment amount before confirming the transaction. Take your time, do your research, know who are dealing with and only use a secure method of payment, such as a credit or debit card, so that you may be able to avail of chargeback if something goes wrong.”