Digital platforms aren’t doing enough, CHOICE says

Thursday, 28 September, 2023

Digital platforms aren’t doing enough, CHOICE says

New research from consumer advocacy group CHOICE shows that Australian users think digital platforms such as Google and Meta aren't doing enough to protect them from scams.

Two in three (66%) think the platforms are failing users, while 79% are concerned their loved ones may fall prey to a scam because they cannot easily identify one.

“It’s no surprise that such a significant portion of Australians agree digital platforms aren’t doing enough to protect people from scams,” said CHOICE CEO Alan Kirkland.

“We’ve found a number of advertisements across Google, Facebook and Instagram promoting scam retailer websites, including examples highlighting issues with Google’s policies to prevent scam ads,” he said.

A CHOICE investigation found ads on Google, Instagram and Facebook linking through to fake websites that imitate popular retailers — including H&M, Gorman, Lorna Jane, Country Road, Peter Alexander, Seed Heritage and Decjuba. The investigation also found issues with Google’s own policies to prevent scams because some advertisers do not appear to be verified before they publish ads.

“These ads and fake websites make it extremely difficult for consumers to work out what’s genuine and what’s not. They are often used to trick people into handing over personal information or credit card details,” Kirkland said.

“Scams are becoming more sophisticated operations, using the same tools legitimate businesses use to advertise. Advertisements for scam websites that we found on Google appeared high on the search results, instantly grabbing a user’s attention, and giving them the impression of authenticity.”

CHOICE said this demonstrates the importance of the government’s commitment to introduce mandatory codes to require businesses like banks, telcos and digital platforms to do more to protect people from scams.

“Large digital platforms like Google and Meta have some of the best technology in the world. They should be putting it to maximum use to protect people from scams, but our investigation reveals significant gaps in their approach. This reinforces the need for mandatory rules for digital platforms to prevent scams, with strong penalties if they fail to comply,” Kirkland said.

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