Google has again refused to say whether it will reimburse Britain's Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) for all the money it has spent warning consumers about dodgy financial ads carried on the tech giant’s platform.
The director of Trust and Safety at Google, Amanda Storey, was among a number of tech bigwigs quizzed about economic crime by MPs at the Treasury Select Committee meeting on Wednesday (video link here).
Speaking yesterday, Storey said: "Scams and fraud are organised crime, much like identity theft or hacking, and we're really working in three main ways to try and tackle that problem. Most recently we launched the Financial Services Certification. So, any advertiser wanting to target a UK user with a financial services ad has to be FCA authorised and has to pass identity checks first before they can run those ads."
But before she could explain further, Storey was asked specifically about the £600,000 the FCA spent last year "advertising with Google, in order to warn people to not engage with these scam advertisements" that were being run on Google.
Details of the FCA's spending were revealed in a committee hearing in June. She replied then saying: "We've offered [the FCA] 1.5 million at this point."
It's unclear whether that amount is in pounds sterling or US dollars although previous correspondence suggests the latter.
Back in June, as we've previously written, Mark Steward, director of enforcement and market insight at the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), said Google had offered to repay the hundreds of thousands of pounds the authority spent on online ads warning people about the dangers of money scams. (The on-the-record figure quote for money spent on this currently stands at £600,000 in the last year alone and could be higher.) The caveat, though, is the payback would only be in credit notes against future spending Google expects the department to make with it.
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Altogether, Storey was asked half a dozen times yesterday by committee chair, Mel Stride MP, whether Google planned to reimburse the FCA for ads it has had to pay for in a bid "to clamp down on fraudulent adverts on Google."
Each time, Storey ducked the question.
In the end, Stride said: "I still don't think I'm getting a direct answer to the question I'm afraid. Could you write to the committee, to answer that very specific question. It may be that you don't know the answer to it."
Storey agreed to "follow up in writing, with more details." Whether the committee receives the reply it wants remains to be seen.
Although the sums of money involved are relatively modest, this line of questioning is unlikely to stop until Google provides an adequate answer.
Asked the same question today, the tech giant's media team once again declined to answer The Reg's specific request although it did point to measures it has taken already to help prevent financial scams.
No one from the FCA was available for comment at the time of writing. ®