Aviva has told the government financial scams promoted by paid-for adverts must be included in its Online Safety Bill to meet the objective of making the UK one of the safest places in the world to be online.
Rob Lee, director of fraud prevention at Aviva, spoke to Health & Protection in the wake of research from the insurer which showed how fearful people are of financial adverts and the strength of desire for government action.
The insurer is joining the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) which in September 2020 called for greater government action to make online platforms responsible for the financial adverts they carry, or more powers to tackle the issue itself.
The pressure appears to be starting to work as in June Google agreed to start requiring financial adverts it was carrying to be from FCA authorised firms or people.
Vast majority want government action
Aviva’s research was conducted by Censuswide among 2,005 adults across the country this summer.
Most notably, the vast majority of people (87%) believe government should legislate to ensure search engines and social media sites do not mislead consumers or promote financial scams.
It also found more than half of internet users (53%) did not trust that adverts on search engines were placed by a legitimate financial services company or provider.
A similar number (56%) did not believe search engines verified the authenticity of the financial product, service, or provider they allowed to be advertised on their platform.
Over 55s were much less likely to trust the results of a search engine than those aged 16 – 24; only 29% of over 55’s compared to 59% of 16–24 year olds trusted adverts.
Consequently, Aviva is calling on government to act on these consumer concerns in its Online Safety Bill. The bill published in May aims to establish a new regulatory framework to tackle harmful content online.
Commenting on how government should respond, Lee told Health & Protection: “Government policy is aimed at ensuring the UK is one of the safest places in the world to be online, which we support. But Aviva’s research shows that there is a long way to go on this journey.
“Online doesn’t mean above board. With fraud undermining consumer trust in financial services, it’s vital that the industry continues to work together with the authorities to protect the public and our customers.
“Currently, there’s no legal responsibility for technology firms to verify the legitimacy of the companies which pay them to publish adverts on their platforms.
“This potentially leaves millions of internet users exposed to unscrupulous adverts. If the government is to realise its ambition, then we believe financial scams promoted by paid-for adverts should be included in the Online Safety Bill.”