Google has thrown down the gauntlet against fraud, telling British financial services firms they must be registered with the UK’s top watchdog to be allowed to advertise.
The technology and advertising giant announced on Wednesday that it will update its terms of conditions on 30 August this year. Enforcement of the changes will begin on 6 September. Mountain View’s new rules will only allow financial services firms that have registered with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) by the enforcement date to advertise with the company.
“While we understand that this policy update will impact a range of advertisers in the financial services space, our utmost priority is to keep users safe on our platforms — particularly in an area so disproportionately targeted by fraudsters,” Google wrote in a blog announcing the decision.
While the FCA welcomed Google’s initiative, a spokesperson told Reuters the markets watchdog believes a “permanent and consistent solution requires legislation” and that it will review Google’s policy changes once they’ve been implemented.
In March, current Bank of England governor and former FCA chief executive Andrew Bailey called for Big Tech firms to be forced to remove fraudulent and misleading financial services websites.
The sites in question include get-rich-quick schemes, cryptocurrency scams and sites pretending to be reputable investment firms.
Google made the announcement about its policy changes after the UK Work and Pensions Committee warned in March that Google must do more to stop online fraud. The parliamentary committee said that pension scammers have increasingly moved online since the introduction of the Pensions Freedom Act 2015.
Committee chair Stephen Timms claimed the law has created “an online free for all, where scammers can advertise with impunity while the tech giants line their pockets from the proceeds of their crimes.”
Fake reviews probe
Even though the multi-trillion behemoth is seemingly putting its best foot forward when it comes to financial fraud, it’s also currently being investigated by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) for fake reviews across its services. The British regulator is also investigating Amazon.
The CMA probe will look into whether the two tech titans have done enough to fight misleading reviewers on their platforms. In particular, it will examine if they do enough to combat fake reviews whenever they are flagged on the platforms.
“Our worry is that millions of online shoppers could be misled by reading fake reviews and then spending their money based on those recommendations,” said Andrea Coscelli, chief executive at the CMA.
“Equally, it’s simply not fair if some businesses can fake 5-star reviews to give their products or services the most prominence, while law-abiding businesses lose out.”
Both Google and Amazon claim they devote considerable efforts to remove untrusted content on their platforms.