Financial Conduct Authority  

FCA racks up £90k bill fighting fraudulent ads

FCA racks up £90k bill fighting fraudulent ads

The Financial Conduct Authority spent almost £90,000 over two months in its fight against fraudulent and misleading online adverts for financial services this year. 

In an evidence session before the Treasury committee in March former chief executive Andrew Bailey said the regulator was "playing whack-a-mole" with adverts for high risk and potentially fraudulent investments online. 

In an attempt to protect consumers Mr Bailey said the FCA was "annoyingly" now paying for its own posts to appear on Google and "directly attack" adverts for illegal or unsuitable financial products. 

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According to a Freedom of Information request submitted by FTAdviser, the regulator spent £89,481 on these paid search adverts between January and early March. 

The FCA said it was using paid search against common investment keywords to target consumers at a "critical point" in their online investment journey. 

The regulator said this was combined with search engine optimisation to make sure its own adverts appear high up in online results, driving consumers to a webpage launched by the FCA in January which warns of the risks associated with high risk investments. 

Mr Bailey told MPs last month: "So you'll get an advert coming up from the FCA saying don't pay this unless you're prepared to lose all your money.

"We've got a duty to the public and we can't hold back" 

But the former FCA boss had warned how even when the watchdog moved to regulate investment adverts online, perpetrators would innovate around its safeguards. 

Victor Sacks, independent financial adviser at VS Associates Ltd, said many advisers who see such adverts on Twitter will alert the FCA, but admitted the regulator "can't do everything". 

Mr Sacks added: "I do think the ads will continue, I'm seeing them on Twitter where so called guaranteed returns are promised."

The regulator has previously confirmed it is powerless to stop adverts for investment scams appearing on internet search engines.

But last year Mr Bailey told FTAdviser he would ideally like to see the likes of Google remove websites which advertise scams within 48 hours of the FCA raising the alarm. 

rachel.mortimer@ft.com

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