Reader question: I was charged €239 to renew my UK passport in France, whereas the fee for people in the UK is €82.50. As far as I can see, the process is identical and the only additional cost would be postage. Surely we are being grossly overcharged?
We discussed this with you further and you stated you used a website called U.K.Abroad to renew your passport.
Having reviewed this site, we clarified to you that it is a third-party, private site.
The site does carry some branding with a white crown on a black background similar to the official UK government website and if you were to visit its homepage and click on the red ‘apply online now’ button without scrolling down or reading other pages, there is nothing obvious to say that it is an unrelated third-party site.
Elsewhere on the website, it states that it is a ‘registered international British document service provider’, however, there is also wording that it ‘operates independently’ and that it is not affiliated to the UK government.
The UK government told us that it recommends that Britons abroad use its own website rather than third-party sites such as this.
It is unclear where the firm is headquartered though its site refers to it having offices in several countries including the UK. We are not aware of any official meaning to the phrase ‘registered international British document service provider’ and did not identify a UK-listed company at Companies House.
Cost of Passport
At the government’s own website gov.uk you can renew a British passport from France for £94 plus a £19.86 courier fee for sending the new passport. This comes to a total of £113.86, or about €132, which is €107 less than what you were charged (which included return by courier).
The direct government process also includes having to pay for postage to send in your old passport, however in our discussions you told us that was also the case with the other service. No other physical supporting documents are required to renew a UK passport from abroad.
In comparison, renewing a UK passport for residents in the UK costs £82.50 and delivery there is free by Royal Mail or at an extra £5 for a courier.
U.K.Abroad states that it undertakes checks of the application and supporting documents to make sure everything is correct and it makes the application process ‘easy’ and ‘fast’. It has a number of positive comments on website review site Trustpilot.com from people in various countries such as Australia, Kuala Lumpur and Malaysia.
Satisfaction rates amid Passport application process
A spokesman from the firm told us that it helps clients avoid applications being “rejected or delayed for too long” which he said could mean they lose their application fee and have to start again. He added there is a ‘clear’ disclaimer saying the firm is not associated with any governments [users must scroll to the bottom of a long homepage to find this] and that ‘99.99999%’ of customers are very happy with the services.
He said the extra cost relates to service fees because the firm manages the entire application process and follows up on the applicant’s behalf.
You told us in a further email that you received the passport in three to four weeks but remained dissatisfied due to the extra cost which you said was “painful in these difficult times”, and because at no stage did the application process draw attention to the fact that it was an alternative private service with a premium fee.
As a result we would advise readers renewing their passports to look carefully at websites, including scrolling down to the bottom of pages and visiting other sections of the site, so as to make an informed decision.
The usual procedure via https://www.gov.uk/overseas-passports is not reported by readers in France to be slow or difficult.
One recently emailed to say: “I geared myself up for a lengthy process but I needn’t have worried.
“I filled out the application online and took a photo against a white wall in my house with no shadows and submitted the application.
“I received an email back on the same day, confirming that my application had been received, with an application number and instructions to send my old passport to an address supplied. I sent it via registered post.
“Exactly three weeks later, I received my new passport and old (cancelled) passport in separate packages.
“I found the whole process incredibly easy with the passport office emailing me every step of the way to keep me informed.”