False Administrative Websites

You signed up for a foreign website which will complete administrative procedures for you, but soon after you realise that the French administration offers these services for free.

Description of the fraud

The French administration offers information and a range of administrative procedures on their websites for free. Such procedures include obtaining a driver’s license, or requesting a birth certificate, car registration form, or criminal records.

However, a company unaffiliated with the government even if based in another country is allowed to provide these services for a fee if it follows these rules:

  • The company performing these services on your behalf does not receive any of the documents, and these documents are sent directly and only to you.
  • The company must inform you that you cannot withdraw from the contract: if you request the company’s services and later wish to cancel them, you must pay fees. However, if the company has not completed the administrative procedures or they were not fully completed, you might not have to pay such fees.
  • The company must inform you of all fees and must send you a bill or confirmation of your order, including all taxes.

Beware of trap!

  • These websites can be very official-looking, and may try to fool you by copying the design of official government websites, using the French flag, referencing other ministries, and/or being at the top of searches.
  • Look at the URL of official sites of the French administration, and ensure they end with “.gouv.fr” or “.fr”, and never by “.gouv.org” or “.gouv.com”. However, even if a site’s URL ends with “.fr” that does not necessarily mean it is an official website! Moreover, it does not necessarily mean that the company is based in France.
  • Ensure that you were not signed up for the website without your knowledge.

Practical advice

  • Before beginning any administrative procedures, research them on official French government websites, and especially before ordering any service from a company and providing them with your debit card information, make sure you can not get the same procedure for free directly from the administration.
  • Identify and evaluate the company offering this service, its professionalism, etc.
  • If you’ve already paid a company based in another EU Member State, in Iceland, in Norway or the UK to perform this service and you have not received any documents, do not hesitate to contact the European Consumer Centre of you country of residence. Contact your bank to request a reimbursement of the fee via the chargeback process (or any other insurance or guarantee you may have with your payment card).

Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Innovation Council and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Executive Agency (EISMEA). Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.