Money and Mental Health and coalition of consumer groups welcomes recommendation by committee of MPs to include paid-for digital ads in Online Safety Bill
14 December 2021
Money and Mental Health and a coalition of consumer groups, charities, policing leads and financial services industry bodies, including Which?, UK Finance, and MoneySavingExpert among many others* has today welcomed the recommendation by the Joint Committee on the Online Safety Bill that paid-for digital adverts be included within the scope of the Online Safety Bill.
Following the recommendations published today by the Joint Committee on the Online Safety Bill the coalition issued the following joint statement:
“We welcome the Committee’s call for paid-for scam advertising to be included in the scope of the draft Online Safety Bill, and we urge Government to act now. This will be vital in safeguarding the public from the epidemic of scams perpetrated by online criminal gangs.
“As a coalition of consumer groups, charities and industry bodies, our view remains that the Government’s current proposed approach to tackling online fraud in the draft Bill is flawed. Including measures to combat user-generated fraud, whilst leaving fraud facilitated via paid for digital adverts out of scope will only lead to complex and muddled legislation, creating loopholes for criminals to exploit and a poor outcome for consumers.
“Fraudsters will be able to continue to exploit people online by posing as legitimate businesses or using fake celebrity endorsements to steal from the public. The coalition is by no means alone in this view. The FCA, Bank of England, City of London Police, Work and Pensions Committee and Treasury Committee have all called for fraud carried out via paid-for advertising to be brought in scope of the Bill.
“Fraud is far from a victimless crime. It is the most common criminal offence in the UK, and the majority of it is committed online. Victims of fraud can lose their entire life savings, which more often than not has a devastating impact on their mental and even physical health. Yet while life changing sums are being lost by victims, platforms are profiting from the paid-for content that facilitates this type of criminal activity.
“We have said time and again that the tactics used by scammers are now so sophisticated that anyone can fall victim to such criminal activity, losing huge sums of money that can be impossible to recoup. We call on the Government to accept the Joint Committee’s recommendations to include paid-for digital advertising within the scope of the draft Bill and ensure the public are properly protected from this illegal activity.”
Martin Lewis, founder of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, said:
“I’m delighted the joint committee has come to the right decision, and backed our call, and the call of all the key charities, consumer groups, industry bodies, police, and regulators, to do the bloomin’ obvious and include scam adverts in the Online Safety Bill. Now we just have to hope the government sees sense and reverses its perverse decision to exclude them.
“Scams don’t just steal people’s money – they can take their self-respect too. As well as damaging the mental health of victims, it disproportionately hurts those with existing mental health problems who are three times more likely to be affected. Scams and fraud aren’t just a financial issue, they’re a core wellbeing issue.
“We are desperate for the Government to listen to the joint committee on this and change its plans. The current scope of the Government’s planned Bill doesn’t just blindly ignore the epidemic of scam adverts that the UK faces – it’s actually going to make it worse. By making big tech responsible for user-generated scams but not the scam adverts they get paid to publish, it creates an incentive for criminal scammers to switch resources to advertising as there will be less scrutiny.
“So I will again plead with the government, to please heed our call, and now the call of the parliamentarians on the joint committee and agree to put scam ads in the Bill, as failing to do so will continue to leave millions of people exposed to the horrendous damage that scammers can cause.”
*The organisations that have signed the statement include:
- Age UK
- The Association of British Insurers
- Carnegie UK Trust
- Innovate Finance
- James Thomson, Chair of the City of London Police Authority Board
- The Investment Association
- Money and Mental Health Policy Institute
- Personal Investment Management & Financial Advice Association (PIMFA)
- B&CE Ltd, provider of the People’s Pension
- UK Finance
- Victim Support