Timms and financial organisations call for economic harm to be included in Online Safety Bill

Work and Pensions Committee (WPC) chair, Stephen Timms, has called for economic harm to be included in the government’s upcoming Online Safety Bill.

Timms’ request was supported by several financial organisations, including the Personal Investment Management & Financial Advice Association (PIMFA), the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) and UK Finance.

He pointed to evidence presented to the WPC that over 40,000 savers had been scammed in the first five years of pension freedoms.

Speaking at PIMFA’s Virtual Fest 2, Timms stated: “At the moment, online platforms are making money from scam adverts and fake websites, and they are making money from the ScamSmart [campaign] adverts from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) as well.

“I’ve called on the Prime Minister in the House of Commons to ensure that the planned bill does tackle online financial harms. He recognised the problem, he said it was a growing problem and he said we will look at what we [the government] can do.

“It does seem to me this imminently forthcoming bill must tackle this problem. We can’t leave this for some possible future legislation.”

Recent City of London Police data showed that there were 89,153 reports of fraud at an estimated cost to victims of £406.5m since 1 January 2021.

Within that figure there were 4,450 reports of investment fraud valued at £109.6m.

FCA director of life insurance and financial advice, Debbie Gupta, noted that data the regulator had collected suggested victims of scams lost £82,000 on average.

Also speaking at the conference, National Fraud Intelligence Bureau detective inspector, Steve Jackson, revealed that the bureau had seen an almost 50 per cent increase in reports of online fraud over the past year.

Which? director of policy and advocacy, Rocio Concha, concluded: “There needs to be a greater focus on ensuring consumers are not exposed to scam content. The government now has a perfect opportunity to require online platforms to do more to tackle the fake and fraudulent digital content that leads to scams in the proposed Online Safety Bill.”

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