The Angling Trust has continued its high profile campaign against what it describes as 'internet rod licence rip-offs' by slamming search engine provider Google for advertising sites which charge anglers a £20.00 administration fee for a £27.00 rod licence, despite offering no additional service.
According to the Angling Trust the internet giant initially took down the adverts when the scam was exposed by BBC Radio 4's 'You and Yours programme', but they have since re-appeared. Searches for 'buy rod licence' or 'fishing licence' on Google generate a list of results that are headed up with sponsored links to the offending sites - rodlicence.net and rodfishinglicence.com.
The Angling Trust says that currently the only place where anglers should buy a rod licence on-line is from www.postoffice.co.uk or over the counter in a Post Office.
The Trust, which first raised the issue in March, is concerned that the sites are likely to be affecting rod licence sales because unsuspecting anglers are finding that the cost of a licence has rocketed. A Government ban on all marketing by its agencies in the past three years has reversed a decade of steadily-increasing rod licence sales and as a result revenues to the Environment Agency have been decreasing each year. Because of the marketing ban, what the Trust describes as unscrupulous companies are able to take advantage of anglers trying to buy their rod licence on the internet, and they pay Google a fee for every angler who clicks on one of the sponsored links.
Angling Trust Chief Executive Mark Lloyd said: 'Surely Google makes enough money without having to benefit from a scam that rips off hard working men and women who are simply seeking to comply with the law and buy a rod licence to support the work of the Environment Agency which maintains, improves and develops fisheries in England. We urge them to do the decent thing and remove these sponsored links to these appalling sites for good. It is suspicious that the sites were removed when Google's spokesman was put on the spot on the radio, but then mysteriously re-appeared.'
He continued: 'The Government must lift the senseless marketing ban on the Environment Agency that stops it spending any money to promote licence sales. The rod licence income is vital to funding protection of our fisheries and supporting the work of organisations in the voluntary sector helping to deliver the National Angling Strategy. Anyone who knows anything about business will tell you that if you stop marketing a product sales will fall, and that is exactly what has happened with rod licences. The situation is made worse by these scammers taking money from anglers to sell them a licence they could buy for £20.00 less via the Post Office web site or counter.'
'If you use Google search and come across these sites advertised we encourage anglers to use the quick and easy 'Send feedback' option at the bottom of the screen to let Google know you are not happy to see these scammers appearing.'