LONDON (Reuters) – Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey has been lobbying the British government to introduce a legal requirement for internet giants such as Google to take down financial fraud websites, according to a report in the Sunday Times.

The report said Bailey had been lobbying Home Secretary Priti Patel, the interior minister, about the issue, asking for the measure to be added to an Online Harms Bill expected to be put before parliament this year.

A Bank of England spokeswoman said the central bank did not comment on private meetings and therefore would not say whether Bailey had spoken to Patel about the issue or not.

She said the governor had been on the record several times saying the Online Harms Bill should be extended to cover financial services.

However, the spokeswoman said the topic fell under the remit of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) rather than the Bank of England, and it was for the FCA to make policy in this area. Bailey was head of the FCA before he took the helm at the bank.

As things stand, the Online Harms Bill would force Internet giants to tackle problems such as online child grooming and terrorism, but not financial fraud which has boomed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Critics accuse Google of benefiting from fraud because companies or individuals seeking to advertise dubious get-rich-quick schemes or other scams can pay the web giant for prominent slots in search results, the Sunday Times reported.

Google says it takes down scam websites when notified, and has in the past blamed poor guidance from regulators for difficulties in implementing rules about fraud.

According to a media report from January 2020, flagged up by the Bank of England spokeswoman, Bailey, then still at the FCA, had said in private emails that companies using Google were able to get around rules supposed to prevent mis-selling.

(Reporting by Estelle Shirbon; editing by David Evans)

Copyright 2021 Thomson Reuters.

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