Chris Lees, Research Officer and Conor D’Arcy, Head of Research and Policy, Money and Mental Health

Safety first: Why the Online Safety Bill should tackle scam adverts

29 July 2021

The government’s upcoming Online Safety Bill fails to tackle one of the most common types of scam: online scam adverts. By failing to include online scam adverts, the government is leaving millions of internet users, and in particular people with mental health problems, at risk of losing money and personal information to scammers.

In this policy note we draw attention to the draft Bill’s unhelpful and unclear distinction between user-generated content and scam ads. We argue that by failing to include scam ads in scope of the Bill the government is providing scammers with a potential ‘get out of jail free’ card, whereby scammers can evade the new regulation by paying relatively small amounts of money to promote their content. 

The government can avoid this problem by including scam adverts in scope of the Bill, giving online firms a duty to stop scam ads appearing on their sites and to remove them rapidly if they do appear. We’re calling on the government to take action now and deal with online scams once and for all – by including scam ads in the Bill.

Read the full policy note here.