Amazon, eBay, Facebook and Google respond to MPs over their role in facilitating online scams, as fraud activity skyrockets during pandemic
Tech companies have defended their actions in helping people avoid falling victim to fraud to a Parliamentary committee, following a concerning rise in online scams during the pandemic.
Amazon, eBay, Facebook and Google responded to a request from Mel Stride, chair of the Treasury select committee, outlining their measures to counter fraud.
The committee had asked the companies how much they had taken in advertising payments from British public bodies including the Financial Conduct Authority for advertising to warn the public of scams, and what compensation they had offered those bodies for advertising costs.
Stride also asked the companies how much they had earned from financial advertising by companies that haven’t been approved by the FCA.
“With cases of fraud rising rapidly, it’s clear that further action is needed to protect consumers online,” Stride said.
“As a committee, we’re calling for online technology companies to stop taking advertising pounds from these fraudsters.”
However, none of the firms provided such figures.
“Quantifying advertising revenue from companies not authorised by the FCA to promote a regulated financial product poses challenges,” Facebook said in its response.
It added that the information was “commercially sensitive”, and that it was “exploring additional vetting of financial services advertisers in the UK and working with the FCA on the best way to do that”.
Facebook said it would support an anti-fraud campaign run by banking industry trade body UK Finance.
Google also declined to disclose its revenues from unlicensed financial advertising, but said it was “very much in Google’s business interest to do the right thing”, since its business was dependent upon the advertising ecosystem and “the continued trust of users in that ecosystem”.
The company said it had taken down more than 3.1 billion ads, including more than 123 million ads that violated its financial services policies.
It said it had offered $3 million (£2.2m) in advertising credits to the FCA to raise awareness of scams, and an additional $2m in credits for specific anti-scam campaigns.
Amazon said it had responded to claims for more than 190,000 UK customers between January 2020 and September 2021 and paid out more than $2m as a result.
eBay said the average payout under its money-back guarantee was $13.10.
Online safety bill
Draft legislation in May for the online safety bill proposed giving regulator Ofcom the ability to fine companies up to £18m or 10 percent of annual global turnover if they failed to take down harmful content, including investment and romance scams.
UK Finance in September reported a 71 percent rise in the first half of 2021 in “authorised push payment fraud”, where criminals trick customers into handing over personal details and passwords, often through the use of fraudulent social media posts and online ads leading to fake websites.
Losses from romance scams in the US reached $304m last year, according to a report last month from the Federal Trade Commission.