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Online Safety Bill: Committees warn Prime Minister over lack of action on harmful paid-for scam adverts

23 July 2021

The Treasury Committee and the Work and Pensions Committee have written to Boris Johnson to warn that the Government’s failure to legislate against online fraud committed through paid-for adverts risks ‘large financial losses to the public’.

The letter follows the Prime Minister’s promise this month at the Liaison Committee that he would look at the Online Safety Bill if it was ‘in some way inadequate’ in tackling online fraud.

The Bill, which was announced in the Queen’s Speech, would legislate against certain types of user-generated fraud online but not against the same fraud committed through a paid-for advert.

Chairs' comments

Rt Hon Mel Stride MP, Chair of the Treasury Committee, said:

“It is very disappointing that the Government has not yet chosen to include fraudulent advertising in the Online Safety Bill. As a Committee we are calling on the Government to do so in order to address online advertising scams, and to prevent further individuals being offered fraudulent financial products. Without decisive action, innocent consumers will continue to be defrauded on a large scale.”

Rt Hon Stephen Timms MP, Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, said:

“The Prime Minister told us that the Bill will tackle fraud—but consumer groups, the financial regulators and even the Governor of the Bank of England say it’s not enough. His offer to look again at the legislation is very welcome. He must listen to the numerous expert voices warning of the devastating harm that scams on the internet are causing, and ensure that action is taken to protect the many thousands of people who risk huge financial loss when they should be safe online.”

Previous recommendations from the committees

The Work and Pensions Committee first called for a crackdown on online fraud in its report on pension scams in March. In its response, the Government rejected the recommendation that financial online harms should be included in the Bill.

The Treasury Committee recommended that the Government address fraud via online advertising in the Online Safety Bill in its report on the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) regulation of London Capital and Finance (LCF). The Committee is also conducting an inquiry into economic crime, which considers how consumers are affected by fraud and scams.

Further information

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