A coalition of consumer groups, charities and financial services industry bodies, including Which? UK Finance, Martin Lewis and MoneySavingExpert, the Personal Investment Management and Financial Advice Association (PIMFA), the Investment Association, the Association of British Insurers and the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, among many others have renewed its call for the Government to include paid-for online adverts within the scope of the Online Safety Bill ahead of it being presented for pre-legislative scrutiny.

The call follows on from research from Which? found that the growing shift towards everyday tasks being carried out online following the onset of the pandemic has led to a devastating surge in scams.

Action Fraud figures, in the year to April 2021, show that 413,553 instances of fraud were reported – an increase of a third (33%) on the previous 12 months. More than £2.3 billion was lost by victims as a result, causing huge financial and mental distress.

To date, the Government has indicated that online advertising will be dealt with through a separate review of advertising regulations which is only in its infancy.

In a joint statement the Group said “As a coalition of consumer groups, charities and industry bodies, our united view is that the Government’s current approach to tackling online fraud is flawed. It will likely lead to complex and muddled regulations, and far worse consumer outcomes than an Online Safety Bill with a comprehensive approach to online fraud.”

“While we welcome the recent inclusion in the Bill of fraud carried out through user-generated content and fake profiles on social media websites, there is still a long way to go. Failing to include online advertising in the Bill leaves too much room for criminals to exploit online systems.”

“This view is backed by the FCA, Bank of England, City of London Police, Work and Pensions Committee and Treasury Committee, who have all commented that the scope of the Online Safety Bill should be expanded to include fraud carried out via online advertising.”

“We do agree with the Government that the impact of these frauds is often devastating, not just financially but also emotionally. That’s why we urge ministers to reconsider their current plan, and make sure the Bill protects as many consumers as possible from the full extent of the devastation caused by scams.”

List of 13 organisations that have signed the statement:

  • Age UK
  • The Association of British Insurers
  • Carnegie UK Trust
  • Innovate Finance
  • The Investment Association
  • Money and Mental Health Policy Institute
  • MoneySavingExpert
  • Personal Investment Management & Financial Advice Association (PIMFA)
  • B&CE Ltd, provider of the People’s Pension
  • TheCityUK
  • UK Finance
  • Victim Support
  • Which?