Published On: Tue, Feb 9th, 2016

Third Party Application Processors

It’s that time of year when we’re all planning our summer getaways and organising EHIC cover if we are travelling within the European Union, and additional travel insurance. Newspapers have been full of dire warning about “scam” websites which help travellers apply for their EHIC, and which charge a fee for doing so. On the face of it, it does certainly seem wrong that websites are charging often large sums for something which can be obtained for free from the official government website. But are these sites really as bad as they seem?

Ehic Card

Much of the controversy over third party websites helping people apply for EHIC, passports or driving licences is that in the past these websites were specifically designed to replicate the official government site and to trick customers. In 2010, the Office of Fair trading shut down any misleading sites under Unfair Trading legislation, and required companies to clearly state what services they were offering and what prices they were changing. All UK based third party sites also have links back to the NHS website. Coupled with reviewed Google search guidelines which rank the official government site at the top of the result page, there should be far fewer people confused about which sort of site they are on.

Although websites which are designed to mislead by copying the EHIC or NHS branding are swiftly taken down by the Office of Fair Trading, it is in no way illegal to offer a “check and send” or “forwarding” service for any items which can be obtained more cheaply elsewhere. UK based third party EHIC websites appear to be taking this on board, and now have clear statements that they are not the official government site and detailing the additional fees they charge and which services are offered.

Many third party websites don’t just give you the EHIC paperwork, which you could have got free from the NHS website. They offer extra services, which many customers are more than happy to pay for. Lots of third party sites offer a “check and send” service such as the Post Office offers for passports to ensure you have entered all of the correct information before submitting the application to the NHS. Third party websites can send you reminders when your EHIC is about to expire, or offer a 24 hour helpline to give advice on completing the form or to keep you updated with the progress of your application. Some offer the possibility of completing your application in as many as 60 languages or let customers call to get their application submitted by phone rather than online. Often, customers are more than happy to pay the processing or administrative fee charged by the third party website due to the additional benefits they are getting. When considered in the overall cost of a foreign holiday, and additional £15 to £25 to make absolutely sure your EHIC is applied for correctly and safely in place before you leave home doesn’t seem that bad.

The European Health Insurance Card (or EHIC) is a free card issued by the NHSBSA. The EHIC Card allows the holder to either state funded of free healthcare when traveling around the EEA member state countries (including Switzerland). You can apply for the EHIC for free here: European Health Insurance Card.

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