MPs write to Prime Minister urging inclusion of paid-for advertising in Online Safety Bill

The Treasury Committee and the Work and Pensions Committee (WPC) have written to Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, again calling for the government to include financial fraud through paid-for advertising in the Online Safety Bill.

Earlier this month, the government rejected the WPC’s recommendation to include scams through paid-for advertising in the bill, although it has previously confirmed that user-generated online fraud will be included.

The letter referenced Johnson’s meeting with the Liaison Committee where he said that he would be happy to look at the bill if it was “in some way inadequate”.

Following this, the committees asked the government why it had not included paid-for advertisement fraud in the bill, what discussions the government had had with the Financial Conduct Authority and if it had a response to the regulator's concerns regarding its powers to tackle online fraud, and if it could explain how the bill is intended to tackle a wide range of fraud.

The committees warned that, although the government had committed to consult on financial fraud through online advertising, there was no timetable for the consultation and fraudulent online advertisements would continue.

Treasury Committee chair, Mel Stride, and WPC chair, Stephen Timms, asked for a response by 4 August.

Timms commented: “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.”

Stride added: “As a committee we are calling on the government to do so [include fraudulent advertising in the Online Safety Bill] in order to address online advertising scams, and to prevent further individuals being offered fraudulent financial products.”

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