This is the message from pensions minister Guy Opperman, who said international standards must be introduced to rein in big tech firms, singling out Google as an example. Mr Opperman said just as global action was required to crack down on doping in sport, a similar approach will be required to regulate big tech. Last year revenues at Google’s parent company, Alphabet, rose to $182.5billion and Mr Opperman is adamant it should be doing more to stop fraudsters preying on people who want to make the best decisions about their pensions and savings.
Investment fraud has become a growing problem in recent years.
One difficulty in policing it is a loophole that means online financial promotions are not subject to the same consumer protection checks as advertising in traditional media.
Mr Opperman’s key demand is that Google verifies the identity of advertisers “before they take their money”.
He said: “Their responsibility is to use their massive profits to ensure they are not assisting fraudsters.
“It is an opportunity for the likes of Google to show they actually want to be part of a modern society, rather than exploiting a modern society.”
Last month the cross-party work and pensions committee said it was “immoral” that the internet giant accepted payments to advertise scams and then also took cash from regulators to publish warnings.
Mr Opperman shares these concerns that the likes of Google have a commercial incentive not to stop fraudsters advertising, saying: “If Google verified the bona fides of their advertisers the revenue from advertising would drop considerably because they wouldn’t be taking fake companies.”
Google’s code of practice includes the instruction “don’t be evil”, but the pensions minister fears the commercial colossus is in trouble.
He said: “This is a company that has lost its way. They want people to trust their site. But I could not advise my parents or my friends in any way to trust anything they find on Google, particularly in matters of finances.”
Consumer group Which? has also called for online financial promotions to face the same laws as traditional media.
Gareth Shaw, head of money at Which?, said: “Online platforms have to be given a legal responsibility to identify, remove and prevent fake and fraudulent content.”
A Which? survey of investment scam victims found four in 10 were targeted via online methods.
A Google spokeswoman said: “Protecting consumers and credible businesses operating in the financial sector is a priority for us.
“We have been working in consultation with the Financial Conduct Authority for over a year and have implemented new measures to address the bad actors in this space.
“Last year, we updated our financial services policies and removed 3.1 billion bad ads from our platforms.”