The founder of consumer help site MoneySavingExpert.com and The Money & Mental Health Policy Institute charity, Martin Lewis is suing Facebook for libel after he claims it failed to stop scammers creating fake adverts using his name and image.
Lewis claims that despite making Facebook aware of the issue, the site failed to respond fast enough. He claims that users who trusted his brand had handed over thousands of pounds in good faith only to discover the ad had nothing to do with him.
Many of the fraudulent ads featured big pictures of Lewis alongside a raft of false promises or endorsements, some of which linked to fake articles on the same topic. According to Lewis, most of these fake ads promoted schemes trading in virtual currency Bitcoin and were akin to get-rich-quick scams. He says that these were fronts for binary trading firms based outside the EU. Binary trading is a financially dangerous, near-certain money-loser, which the regulator the Financial Conduct Authority strongly warns against.
Facebook Slow to Act on Scam Ads
Even though the ads were reported, they would continue to run for days or weeks before being removed. As soon as one was taken down an identical scam ad would pop up in its place. Lewis says he is taking legal action because of his frustration with Facebook’s lacklustre response and that these criminals were permitted to continue preying on users. Although the lawsuit is not designed to win, Lewis hopes it will force Facebook to change its advertising policy and reduce the overall risk of such scam ads being run.
Currently, the onus is on Lewis to report if his images are being used fraudulently, but he recommends there be a notification system implemented that notifies well-known individuals if their image is used in an advert. Lewis has pledged that if he is awarded any damages they will be donated to an anti-scam charity, furthermore, he calls on Facebook to reimburse the deceived victims.
A lawyer for Lewis commented that: “Facebook is not above the law – it cannot hide outside the UK and think that it is untouchable. Exemplary damages are being sought. This means we will ask the court to ensure they are substantial enough that Facebook can’t simply see paying out damages as just the ‘cost of business’ and carry on regardless. It needs to be shown that the price of causing misery is very high.”
Martin Lewis Commented:
“I feel sick each time I hear of another victim being conned because of trust they wrongly thought they were placing in me. One lady had over £100,000 taken from her.”
“I don’t do adverts. I’ve told Facebook that. Any ad with my picture or name in is without my permission. I’ve asked it not to publish them, or at least to check their legitimacy with me before publishing. This shouldn’t be difficult – after all, it’s a leader in face and text recognition.”
Facebook said: “We do not allow adverts which are misleading or false on Facebook and have explained to Martin Lewis that he should report any adverts that infringe his rights and they will be removed.”
“We are in direct contact with his team, offering to help and promptly investigating their requests, and only last week confirmed that several adverts and accounts that violated our advertising policies had been taken down”