Quilter writes to PM urging inclusion of scams in Online Safety Bill

Quilter has written to Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and Minister for Digital and Culture, Caroline Dinenage, calling on the government to include scams and other financial harms in the upcoming Online Safety Bill.

In the letter, Quilter CEO, Paul Feeney, stated that failing to include scams in the new legislation, which is due to be introduced to parliament later this year, risked missing a “crucial” opportunity to take action against online scams.

Particular concern was raised about the threat of fake investment comparison websites, which aim to steal the identity of regulated financial services firms to trick investors.

Quilter acknowledged government concerns around including online scams in the bill but urged it to reconsider as it felt that the government’s Online Advertising Programme, which was proposed as a solution, would not provide the protections required and would take too long to implement.

Feeney argued that including scams in the bill would potentially capture a greater variety of scams in comparison to the Online Advertising Programme.

Online investment scams are becoming one of the most serious economic crime threats faced by consumers, according to Feeney, who called for “holistic and coordinated action” from the government, including from the Home Office and Treasury.

“We therefore respectfully recommend that your government reconsiders the decision to exclude scams from the Online Safety Bill so that consumers are given greater protections as quickly as possible,” wrote Feeney.

“This could coincide with other changes, such as including paid-for advertising on online platforms within scope of the financial promotions regime. The uncertainty and disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has created the perfect environment for scammers to thrive.

“As we enter a period of historically low interest rates, and where many consumers have been able to build up their savings, many will be searching online and on social media for investment opportunities and will no doubt be exposed to considerable harm.

“We need to ensure these consumers are protected, and that it becomes considerably harder for scammers to reach potential victims through online channels. This can be achieved quickly and decisively this year with the Online Safety Bill.”

This is not the first time the government has been encouraged to include scams in the bill, with Work and Pensions Committee chair, Stephen Timms, alongside several financial organisations, calling for its inclusion last month.

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