PLSA AC 21: Regulators 'powerless' against online paid advert scams - Timms

Regulators remain "powerless" to hold online firms to account for paid-for scam adverts, with savers facing a "growing risk" of pension scams at the point of retirement, Work and Pensions Committee chair, Stephen Timms, has warned.

Speaking at the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA) Conference 2021, Timms warned that there was a "real and, I'm afraid of, growing risk of being scammed" when savers access their pensions.

"It is a very bad and really very worrying situation," he said, emphasising that whilst there have been some "welcome moves" following the committee's inquiry into pension scams, such as powers to allow trustees to block a transfer that shows signs of a scam, there are still "lots of areas" needing further attention.

"In particular, online scams were a big theme of our inquiry and that's where a lot of the problem is," he said, continuing: "Regulators seem powerless to hold online firms to account for hosting scam adverts in the way that they, they could, if those adverts were in traditional media.

"The government has got an Online Safety Bill that is supposed to tackle a whole raft of online safety problems, and the government has said it will tackle user generated online scams, but they're still saying it won't tackle the much larger volume committed through paid-for scam adverts. That distinction, it seems to me, just does not make any sense.

"A joint committee of members of the House of Commons and House of Lords is now considering the draft bill, and they're going to produce their report by 10 December.

"I hope they will recommend that the bill is changed to deal with scam adverts, and then it will be for the government to decide whether to accept that recommendation or not."

Timms also confirmed that the WPC is expected to launch its third inquiry into pension savings at the “end of the year”, shifting its focus from decumulation to pension saving adequacy and issues around the gender pension gap and gig economy workers.

He said: “Once we've concluded our oral evidence on the second part of our inquiry dealing with the decumulation, we will be calling for evidence on the third and final part of the inquiry.

“What we're expecting to cover in that is the adequacy of pension savings in the UK, the next stage of auto enrolment, what should look like.

"We'll be looking at the gender pension gap, and we'll be looking at the need for specific measures to support self-employed and gig-economy workers save for retirement as well."

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