MSE joins campaigners calling on Liz Truss to find the "quickest and most effective" way to shield consumers from online scams
MoneySavingExpert.com and its founder Martin Lewis have joined forces with a number of campaign groups and organisations to urge the Prime Minister to push the scams element of the Online Safety Bill through Parliament as quickly as possible in a bid to end the "constant perpetuation of online fraud".
The groups, which also include Which? and the City of London Police Authority, have sent a letter to Liz Truss to highlight the growing problems caused by online scams, particularly in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic and in light of the cost of living crisis. The letter urges the Prime Minister to push the scams element of the Online Safety Bill through Parliament immediately.
"Further delays to the Bill will result in the continued perpetuation of online fraud, costing people - many of who are already struggling with the cost of living crisis - dearly, devastating their lives and finances beyond repair," the letter reads.
Originally, scam ads were not included within the scope of the Government's Online Safety Bill, however, in March the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport announced that this would change.
Before this element was included, Martin, MoneySavingExpert, and the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute - the charity founded by Martin - teamed up with a number of other charities, agencies and trade bodies to push for its inclusion.
If you think you've been a victim of a scam or want to know more on how to avoid one, see our 30+ ways to stop scams guide.
Here's the letter to Liz Truss from Martin and the other campaign groups
Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss MP Prime Minister
10 Downing St
14 October 2022
Dear Prime Minister,
As the widest reported crime in the UK, fraud is one of the greatest and most destructive online harms facing British consumers today, costing households approximately £2bn a year. In addition to the life changing sums of money lost, research shows being scammed can take a devastating toll on people’s mental and physical health.
Which? estimates the cost to wellbeing at £7.2bn per year, while in 2021 Action Fraud received between 300 to 350 reports per week where victims showed signs of severe emotional distress due to being scammed, with some needing emergency services dispatched to their homes. While major platforms profit from selling ad space to scammers, much of the money stolen ends up funding organised crime around the world.
The pandemic only increased the need for urgent action, leading to a huge rise in reported instances of fraud as scammers took advantage of emerging consumer vulnerabilities. The intensifying cost of living crisis now presents fresh opportunities for fraudsters to target struggling consumers.
As a coalition of consumer groups, charities and financial services industry bodies, we have been delighted to see scam advert protections within the Online Safety Bill progress through Parliament over recent months and strengthened at each stage of the legislative process to ensure they can best address the most widespread form of online harm: fraud.
We were pleased to hear your recent comments indicating that the Online Safety Bill will return to Parliament this session. The unrelenting scale of harm caused by online fraud - through both user generated content and scam advertising - and the rate at which the problem is increasing, means that consumers cannot afford to wait for these vital protections. Further delays to the Bill will result in the continued perpetuation of online fraud, costing people - many of who are already struggling with the cost of living crisis - dearly, devastating their lives and finances beyond repair.
The Government, under your leadership, must commit to finding the quickest and most effective solution to shield UK citizens from becoming victims of fraud – ideally by championing this element in the Online Safety Bill through Parliament as soon as possible. This Government has a unique opportunity to make the internet a safer place for British consumers and to not simply kick this problem down the road.
We look forward to working with you to finally put a stop to online scams.
Association of British Insurers (ABI)
City of London Corporation
City of London Police Authority
Money and Mental Health Policy Institute (MMHPI)
Money Saving Expert (MSE)
Personal Investment Management & Financial Advice Association (PIMFA) TheCityUK