Client Affairs

Industry Rallies To Shift Online Fraud Responsibility

Jackie Bennion, Deputy Editor, 12 March 2021

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The forthcoming Online Safety Bill is carrying a big burden to stem online fraud. It is currently coming up short. PIMFA heard from the government this week on sharpening that resolve.

At a virtual event hosted by PIMFA this week, Work and Pensions Select Committee Chair Stephen Timms MP said that the government was not ignoring the pain that fraud is causing the sector.

Financial services, along with other industries, have been calling on the government to add an “economic harm” provision to the Online Safety Bill to protect consumers. The bill, which is expected anytime, will set down a new regulatory framework for how to engage with technology platforms as harmful and illegal content continues to plague the online world.

“It does seem to me this imminently forthcoming bill must tackle this problem," Timms told delegates. "We can’t leave this for some possible future legislation,” he said.

The latest fraud statistics are undeniably bleak. Since the start of the year, scammers have cost victims around £400 million, with a quarter of that (roughly £110 million) in investment fraud - a concern for advisors. More financial sites than ever before are being cloned, with at least one fake site a day being reported by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, which itself has been impersonated by fraudsters.

When details of the bill surfaced in December, critics said it lacked any provision to protect people against online fraud and was far more focused on terrorism and trafficking activity.

Some see the bill as a watershed moment where an era of self-regulation makes way for one where online companies are held far more accountable. It is part of growing efforts to hold Big Tech up for more scrutiny, from policing their own platforms to paying a larger share of global tax receipts.

PIMFA, UK Finance, Which?, the charity Money and Mental Health, and the Carnegie Trust UK are among those pushing for a more comprehensive version to be thrashed out. This should involve "greater cooperation from domain name registration services, internet service providers and online platforms such as social media and search engines," PIMFA chief executive Liz Field, said.

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