Martin Lewis launches legal action to ‘give Facebook a bloody nose’ over scam ads

MoneySavingExpert founder says social network publishes adverts which have seen 'vulnerable people losing money'

Samuel Osborne
Monday 23 April 2018 08:59 BST
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Martin Lewis, of the money saving website moneysavingexpert.com
Martin Lewis, of the money saving website moneysavingexpert.com

Martin Lewis, the founder of MoneySavingExpert, is launching a High Court legal battle against Facebook over claims the site is publishing scam adverts which have caused vulnerable people to hand over thousands of pounds to criminals.

Mr Lewis is due to lodge court papers for a defamation lawsuit against the social media giant over claims it has published more than 50 fake posts bearing his name in the last year, many of which were used to scam money out of people.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he had "put Facebook on notice," after scammers used his image and reputation to advertise get-rich-quick schemes.

"These are scams, I haven't invested any money in them," he said. "We know people who genuinely have lost money out of them."

Mr Lewis said there was a "lacuna of regulation" on the site.

He said he would donate any damages won through the lawsuit to anti-scam charities.

"They've been hiding long enough. So it's about time they came into court," he said. "If they won't talk to me elsewhere, they're going to have to come to court about this."

He added: "I want them to stop being the facilitator of scam adverts that have left vulnerable people losing money."

People have handed over thousands of pounds in good faith, only to find the advert has nothing to do with Mr Lewis or his company, he told the Press Association.

He said he aims to force the social media behemoth to change its policy and reduce the risk of such scams being hosted by Facebook.

Mr Lewis said: “There are customers who have lost a lot of money. Some of them won’t even talk to me because they’ve seen my face on the advert and think it’s me who has scammed them – it’s an absolute disgrace.

“I’ve had enough of this. It’s affecting my reputation, but more importantly it is affecting real people who are handing over money in good faith while the scammers are raking in the cash.

“I won’t be making a penny out of this, by the way – I’ve had a team of people looking at this for months now and it is time to take a stand.”

He said the legal action was not designed to win the defamation case itself, but to force the company to change its policy on advertising, for example reducing the risk of such scams by having inbuilt settings notifying well known people every time their image was used in an advert, requiring their approval that the post was legitimate.

The television personality and journalist said: “I hope to open up a legal remedy for other people who have found themselves in the same boat.

“I don’t do adverts. I’ve told Facebook that. Yet it simply continues to repeatedly publish these adverts and then relies on me to report them, once the damage has been done.

“I’ve got no idea how successful this legal action will be or how long it will take but I can’t sit back and let it [scamming] happen. I’m trying to give Facebook a bloody nose and actually get some changes made – or at least get people talking about this.”

Mr Lewis said he would be prepared to call a halt to the defamation claim if Facebook pledged to tackle the scam adverts problem.

Solicitor Mark Lewis of Seddons, leading the lawsuit, said: “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.”

Additional reporting by PA

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