In Focus: Vulnerability  

Advisers urge MPs to put finance in Online Safety bill

Advisers urge MPs to put finance in Online Safety bill
 Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels

Advice firms have started writing to their MPs, asking them to urge the department for culture, media and sport to include financial harms in its Online Safety bill.

Kathryn Knowles, managing director of Cura Financial Services, has written to Kevin Hollinrake, MP for Thirsk and Malton, asking him to support an addition to the focus of the bill, which currently focuses on targeting activities such as terrorism and trafficking.

She wrote: "I am hoping that you might be able to support an addition to this focus, that of financial harm."

Citing the amount of "rogue agents creating or using disreputable lead generation firms", as well as the rise in other financial scams especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, Knowles called this "a constant problem in our industry".

Her letter said: "There are far too many vulnerable people who could fall prey to these scams. It is not just vulnerable people either; these scam companies are very clever with their words.

"Personally, I will take these calls - as will some others that I know - and do whatever we can to gain as much data on the person and company as possible", with a view to reporting and hopefully blocking them from hurting someone.

"But often you hit a brick wall and it seems that no matter how much you report these companies, more and more just pop up to take their place.

"Our regulators need more power to step in. I hope that you will speak with the DCMS to make sure that 'financial harm' is included in the Online Safety bill."

Earlier this month, the Personal Investment Management and Financial Advice association said it was pushing on behalf of its adviser members and their clients to bring financial harm within the scope of the legislation.

Liz Field, chief executive of the adviser trade body, told FTAdviser: "Some firms have told us their website has been cloned - and the clone is being created in America.

"We've worked with the National Crime Agency and Action Fraud to encourage national and international action, but the figures are shocking. 

"Some £2.1bn has been lost to fraud. We would be really supportive of financial harm being included in the Online Safety bill."

This came after Stephen Timms MP, chairman of the Work and Pensions Committee, told FTAdviser he would be bringing an amendment to include financial crime within the bill.

During a debate in Westminster in December, Timms had asked Oliver Dowden, secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, whether financial crime would form part of the online safety bill, and was told at the time it was not being considered.

Timms said: "There is much the government needs to do. Much of this problem is online. Now we are about to see in the House of Commons the government's Online Safety bill.