Dear ADI,

We would like to inform you about the unofficial Driving Theory & Driving Test websites that are ripping off Learner Drivers to the tune of an estimated €200,000 per year. The Road Safety Authority (RSA) and the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) have teamed up to warn Driver Theory Test and Driving Test applicants to only book their tests through official websites.

The call comes as figures show that unofficial third party websites in the UK could be profiting in excess of an estimated €200,000 each year by charging unsuspecting Theory and Driving Test customers in Ireland an unnecessary extra fee to book their tests.

Last year, one in eight Driver Theory Test candidates in Ireland, approximately 7,000 customers, booked their theory test through these unofficial websites, paying up to an additional €23 on top of the theory test fee. As a result, the operators of these websites are making an estimated €90,000 to €160,000 annually from Driver Theory Test customers. In addition, over 4,750 people who applied for their driving test, since July 2011, have also been affected, paying an additional €18 per booking, netting these bogus sites over €73,000

Mr Declan Naughton, Director of Driver Testing and Licensing with the Road Safety Authority said, “We are really concerned that customers in Ireland are being ripped off by these websites who are charging customers up to €23 extra to book their theory or driving test for them. These so-called services are making a huge profit at the expense of unsuspecting customers who may not realise that they are paying a totally unnecessary extra cost to book their test. We want to remind customers that when they book their test through the official channels, there are no hidden extras; they only pay the cost of the test itself. In addition, their data will be stored in accordance with Irish Data Protection Laws.”

Explaining how customers may end up on one of these websites instead of on the official test booking websites, Mr Naughton said, “These unofficial websites advertise to book theory and driving tests online and customers think that they are the booking on official websites, which they are not. These websites lure customers in by appearing official, using words associated with the driving and theory test and even using our name. The RSA has tried to beat these sites at their own game by advertising the official sites online. However, many customers continue to book their tests on the unofficial sites. The only winners are the unofficial sites in the UK who are targeting unsuspecting learner drivers, and companies like Google, who profit from all the advertising.”

The RSA is also warning learner drivers of the dangers of passing on their personal details, such as their PPS number and driver number, to these sites. While such information is required to book a test, it should only be provided when booking a theory test and driving test on the official RSA Driving Test application website and the official driver theory test website where you will only be charged the cost of the test.

Joe O’Connor, President, Union of Students of Ireland commented, “It is unacceptable that these websites try to trick learner drivers into paying an extra fee to book their test. Students are already under pressure with mounting college fees and expenses and we would urge all students to only book their tests through the RSA’s official channels. For many students, the additional booking charge of over €20 can make a significant difference when relying on a grant or waiting for their next paycheque.”

Concluding Declan Naughton, RSA said, “Consumers need to be extra vigilant when booking their Driver Theory Test or Driving Test online. Unofficial third party companies advertise on search engines and in some cases they may look similar to that of the official website. They do not adhere to Irish Data Protection Laws, therefore your personal details, including your PPS number, driver number and credit card details may be compromised during the booking process.”

The RSA has highlighted the gathering of such personal data by these unofficial websites to the Data Protection Commissioner. However, as these websites are outside of Irish jurisdiction, Irish agencies are unable to bring proceedings against them. The RSA will continue to monitor these websites and explore new ways to negate their online activity.