A coalition of consumer groups, charities and financial services industry bodies is renewing its call for the government to include paid-for online adverts within the scope of the Online Safety Bill, ahead of it being presented for pre-legislative scrutiny.
The coalition includes Which?, UK Finance, Martin Lewis and MoneySavingExpert, the Personal Investment Management and Financial Advice Association (PIMFA), the Investment Association (IA), the Association of British Insurers and the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute.
It comes as research from Which? found that the growing shift towards everyday tasks being carried out online following the onset of the pandemic has led to a devastating surge in scams.
Action Fraud figures, in the year to April 2021, show that 413,553 instances of fraud were reported - an increase of a third on the previous 12 months. More than £2.3bn was lost by victims as a result.
To date, the government has indicated that online advertising will be dealt with through a separate review of advertising regulations which is only in its infancy.
"As a coalition of consumer groups, charities and industry bodies, our united view is that the government's current approach to tackling online fraud is flawed. It will likely lead to complex and muddled regulations, and far worse consumer outcomes than an Online Safety Bill with a comprehensive approach to online fraud," the 13-strong group said in a statement.
"While we welcome the recent inclusion of fraud in the Bill carried out through user generated content and fake profiles on social media websites, there is still a long way to go. Failing to include online advertising in the Bill leaves too much room for criminals to exploit online systems," it added, stating that the Bill needs to be reconsidered so that it "protects as many consumers as possible from the full extent of the devastation caused by scams."
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), Bank of England, City of London Police, Work and Pensions Committee and Treasury Committee, have all said that the scope of the Online Safety Bill should be expanded to include fraud carried out via online advertising.