Google has begun to clamp down on financial services advertisements by introducing a new verification policy.

In a message sent to advertisers on Wednesday (30 June), Google said it would be updating its policy by introducing new verification requirements for financial services advertisers targeting the UK. 

Adverts related to the following categories will not be considered financial services for the purposes of this policy, but are still required to comply with all other Google Ads policies:

  • Products in scope of our debt services policy
  • Products in scope of our complex speculative financial products policy: contracts for difference, rolling spot forex, financial spread betting. Ads for this category will be able to target UK users seeking financial services as long as they meet the requirements of its complex speculative financial products policy and complete verification, if requested by Google.
  • Gambling 
  • Products in scope of our cryptocurrencies, credit repair and binary options policies

The tech giant said: "Advisertisers that have not successfully completed the updated verification process by the time enforcement begins will no longer be allowed to show financial services ads of any kind in the UK, including showing ads to UK users who appear to be seeking financial services.

"Violations of this policy won't lead to immediate account suspension without prior warning. A warning will be issued at least seven days prior to any suspension of your account."

The policy update will be published on 30 August and enforcement will take effect seven days later. The company did not offer up much detail on the upcoming changes.

In January, pensions minister Guy Opperman told a Work and Pensions Committee that online platforms "need to change their ways" and help stamp out pension scams.

He said: "Google need to take along hard look at themselves and change their ways. We have reached a situation where the number one provider of information is not a newspaper or an encyclopaedia it is Google quite clearly and to a lesser extent Facebook.

"We as legislators need to take a very long hard look at how we regulate online operators on an ongoing basis."

Boring Money CEO Holly Mackay said the premise was a logical one: "This policy offers a sensible measure of control and should mean people can buy with a little more confidence when they search online for an investment provider.

"However, enforcement is clearly going to be very difficult and if scammers are still able to slip through the net then consumers will need to continue to be alert.

"It is wise to be cautious about any product that claims it can offer a guarantee of outlandish returns, and investors should always seek to verify that the investment they're planning to make is genuine, for example by checking secondary sources like review sites and investment research tools."

Mackay also said stamping out financial ads on search engines was a "key challenge", but added that the potentially more dangerous platforms are those such as TikTok and Instagram where "unqualified influencers spout nonsense" about investments.

"That is harder to regulate and control but is where much damage is being done. It's moving fast and as always I think it's very hard for the regulator to keep up."

Meanwhile, 4 Financial Planning founder Ian Else said: "The FCA seems to be struggling to stem the tide of misinformation or even downright scams.

"So it's a relief that the first big tech giant has decided to do the right thing. The proof will be in the pudding though and social media platforms must follow suit to make any meaningful difference."