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Google UK announces ad restrictions to help fight financial fraud online
30 June 2021, 00:04
Google UK is to require financial services to verify their identity with the Financial Conduct Authority before advertising on the platform.
Google UK is to require financial services to verify their identity with the regulator before advertising on the platform as part of its efforts to fight online fraud.
The firm said the new requirement would take effect from September 6 and help prevent scammers from exploiting its platforms.
Advertisers must successfully complete the updated verification process by the time enforcement begins in order to show financial services ads to UK users.
Financial services advertisers will be required to demonstrate that they are authorised by the UK Financial Conduct Authority.
Google said ads relating to categories including debt services, gambling, cryptocurrencies and credit repair, among some others, would not be considered financial services for the purposes of the new policy, but were still required to comply with all other Google ads policies.
Google UK managing director Ronan Harris said: “Today’s announcement reflects significant progress in delivering a safer experience for users, publishers and advertisers.
“While we understand that this policy update will impact a range of advertisers in the financial services space, our utmost priority is to keep users safe on our platforms – particularly in an area targeted by fraudsters.
“We are committed to leading on necessary changes to help fight online scammers.”
An FCA spokeswoman said: “We welcome all steps which protect consumers from scams and recognise that this is a positive move from Google. We will review the detail. We want to see continued and concerted efforts by all organisations with an interest in protecting consumers to achieve a sustained reduction in scams.
“It is important that all social media firms ensure that financial promotions using their services comply with UK law, and we expect all social media firms to ensure they are in compliance.
“While this is an important step from Google we think a permanent and consistent solution requires legislation. We also continue to consider that investment fraud caused by online advertising should be included in the scope of the Online Safety Bill, and welcome the Treasury Committee’s recent statement on this.
“We will assess the outcome of Google’s decision once these changes take effect.”
In a report into the London Capital & Finance scandal, the Treasury committee said online fraud should be included in the Online Safety Bill.
The bill is looking at how to make tech giants accountable for ‘harmful’ content on their platforms – but does not cover sophisticated online scams.
Thousands were scammed out of millions by LCF, which used targeted online advertising to entice investors to buy mini-bonds from the firm.
Published in May, the Bill proposes a new duty of care for tech companies that host user-generated content, with large fines and having their platforms blocked as potential penalties for breaching rules on protecting users, with Ofcom overseeing as the regulator.
Consumer group Which? has also said the case for including scams in the Bill is “overwhelming”.
It said online scams had a devastating financial and emotional impact on victims – and “too often platforms like Facebook and Google are leaving their users worryingly exposed to criminals operating on their sites”.
Rocio Concha, Which? director of policy and advocacy, said: “Our research has repeatedly exposed scam ads on Google that can have devastating financial and emotional consequences for victims – so it’s good that Google is recognising that it must take far greater responsibility for fraudulent adverts that lead to financial scams. Google must now introduce this measure without delay.
“The success of these changes will be judged by whether they stem the tide of scam adverts and will depend on Google effectively enforcing its policies to prevent fraudsters from luring in victims on its platform.
“To ensure the right protections are put in place for consumers, the Government must urgently give online platforms, including search engines and social media companies, a legal responsibility to prevent, identify and remove fake and fraudulent content on their sites.”