“I went to the Post Office to renew my driving licence and passport at the same time. I paid the extra for them to sort it out, photo and all. It was very efficient and I was impressed with the speed of the service and later the return of my new driving licence and passport. However it is only now that I am disappointed at the discovery that the same lady put an apostrophe on my surname on my passport but NOT on my driving licence. It is only now that I am trying to sort out my state pension that I cannot use it online or by phone when trying to sort it out as they are different. I have not worked for a while as I have been Caring for my children, in-laws and my own parents so cannot use a pay-slip or anything. Obviously the Post Office has denied all knowledge of this and has advised me to ‘pay-out’ and renew them again…what can I do? “ Joanna, 54, St Albans 


Hello Joanna,

Errors made by businesses with people’s names are surprisingly common. Yet as you’ve found, the impact on your life can be substantial. I’ve seen how missing hyphens have stymied loans and creaking banking systems that have been unable to cope with particularly long surnames. One of the challenges posed by the digital age and automation is the fact that computers can be much more efficient about checking things, but are merciless when it comes to overlooking errors or applying a bit of good old fashioned common sense.

When people use the Post Office licence renewal service, they pay £21.50 instead of the DVLA standard charge of £17 (the DVLA charge £34 for a first-time licence application online and £43 by post).

For your £4.50 extra, the Post Office should take your photo and send of the application and – here’s the kicker – check your application.

It’s clear to me that they’ve failed with the checking stage. Clearly, this is their error as your passport was processed correctly, so that’s a failure of their service.

Here’s the good news. It is free to change your name (or title) on your driving licence with the DVLA. You are still able to drive while this is being processed. There is a guide on the Gov.uk website here

Now, technically, you aren’t changing your name, just correcting a minor omission. But the DVLA assure me that the same principle applies.

You’ll need to fill out form: D1 ‘Application for a driving licence’ for a car or motorbike licence. You’ll also need to provide documents confirming the correct spelling of your name. Because your passport has the apostrophe in the correct place you can use this as your identification. You don’t need to send in the passport though – just write the 9-digit passport number on the form. Don’t forget to change your vehicle log book (V5C) too if that’s also incorrect.

In terms of your state pension, you should be able to use your passport as an appropriate form of identification instead of your driving licence. In fact, the vast majority of Government-linked organisations and businesses will accept either a passport or driving licence, so the error should not have too much of an impact on you while it’s corrected.

None of this is the point though. The Post Office made an error and should be addressing the inconvenience you’ve been put through. A refund of £4.50 would be a bit of an insult, so I’d make a formal complaint to them about their error and the distress the situation has caused you at a challenging time. You can ask them for compensation, though this might be largely symbolic.

You can complaint to the Post Office through their website where they have an online form. I’d cut and paste your complaint on to a separate document or email just in case it vanishes down the back of the internet! Here’s the link specifically for driving licence complaints.

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