All four tech companies who were part of an inquiry into economic crime, have now responded to a request from Mel Stride MP, Chair of the Treasury Committee, to explain their current policies on combatting online fraud, scams and economic crime on their platforms.
In Google’s response, $3m (£2.19m) have been offered in ad credits to the Financial Conduct Authority; this comes in response to the mounting pressure from MPs, which included Labour’s Rushanara Ali raising the real possibility of further legislation that could levy fines on big tech if they did not do more to kerb instances of fraud, particularly when Google stands to benefit financially from the fraud.
Rushanara Ali MP revealed earlier this year that the FCA pays Google £600,000 each year to display scam warnings, to which the FCA’s executive director, Mark Steward, responded: “[the] irony of us having to pay social media to publish warnings about advertising that they are receiving money for is not lost on us.” There has also been concern around whether Google plans to reimburse the £600,000.
Labour’s Siobhain McDonagh also commented “Social media companies earn a lot of money by offering fraudulent deals and seem to have no consequences for doing it,” inferring that Google makes money from both displaying scam warnings and from the scams themselves.
Despite these criticisms, the UK’s director of trust and safety at Google, Amanda Storey, maintains that “Google was the first technology company to join industry body Stop Scams UK to develop best practices alongside longstanding and robust financial products and services policies […] thanks to policy updates introduced in consultation with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), we know more about the businesses and third-party relationships operation on our platform.”
When Storey was questioned by Anthony Browne MP, he asked if Google would be compensating those who are victims of fraud due to adverts on Google’s platform, and, after several fraught attempts by Storey to subvert the line of questioning, she then admitted that Google have never compensated anyone, and that they have no plans to. The same was admitted by Allison Lucas, content policy director at Facebook.
After Storey and Lucas made these admissions and said that plans were only to work to reduce crime, rather than to compensate victims, Anthony Browne MP closed with “You are unlikely to eliminate it 100% because fraudsters are incredibly imaginative and agile, and there will still be people losing money, often livelihoods, as a result of advertising that Facebook, Google and others facilitate,” and continued “Banks know their fraud loss rates, because they compensate customer for fraud” before closing with the deduction that Google continues to profit from fraudulent ads whilst compensating nothing.