A coalition of 17 consumer and business groups and authorities has called on the government to include scams in the scope of its much-delayed online safety bill.
The White Paper of Proposals for the Online Safety Act was originally published more than two years ago; The aim of the legislation is to create a regulatory framework for the internet that makes it safer to use, especially for children.
The legislation reflects European data protection regulations and is expected to include severe financial penalties for companies failing to fulfill their duty of care towards users.
The online security bill, which has been long delayed for several reasons, could be announced in the Queen’s speech next week.
Now a coalition of 17 groups has urged the government to ensure that the legislation also protects against an “avalanche” of online scams.
The groups – which include Which ?, the City of London Police and the Association of British Insurers – presented their advice in an open letter to Home Secretary Priti Patel and Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden.
“Online platforms play a vital role in enabling criminals to reach and defraud Internet users by hosting, promoting and targeting bogus and fraudulent content on their sites, including ads from which they make significant profits,” said the letter.
“Still, platforms have very little legal responsibility for protecting their users, despite often being in the best position to tackle malicious content.”
According to Action Fraud, the scams escalated during the coronavirus pandemic, with an estimated £ 1.7 billion lost to them in the past 12 months.
However, the coalition said the actual financial losses are likely to be much higher and do not explain the full impact on the victims.
“There is now broad consensus within industry, regulators and consumer groups on the urgent need for action to tackle scams and the critical role online platforms must play in protecting users from the harm caused by false and fraudulent content” , the letter said.
continued. “While we recognize that government is taking initiatives to address aspects of online fraud, there is a growing risk that current plans for future regulatory frameworks do not provide a comprehensive approach to the threats facing consumers and not the magnitude or urgency of the problem .Martin Lewis, founder of MoneySavingExpert.com, said:
“It is an incredible belief that the government’s online security law could ignore the epidemic of scams facing the UK – but that’s the plan. The supervision of scams is seriously underfunded, which means that criminals can get away with this fraud with impunity.
The government has a chance to at least deny them the “oxygen of publicity” by making big technology responsible for the scammer’s ad he is paid to publish.
“I plead with the bent knee government to take that opportunity by posting scams in the Online Safety Bill.
Failure to do so will betray its promise to create world-leading online protections and make vulnerable people defenseless against online crime in the midst of a global pandemic.
A government spokesperson replied, “The government is working closely with industry, regulators, law enforcement and consumer groups to tackle online fraud.
This includes our online advertising program, which will consider further regulations regarding online advertising to prevent online harm.
Recruit more police with specialist skills as part of our commitment to recruit 20,000 new agents, and provide scam reporting and takedown services to remove malicious and fraudulent websites. ”