By Mark Fairlie
Founder of the UK consumer help website The Money Saving Expert, Martin Lewis, announced on Monday that he was issuing high court proceedings against Facebook for defamation. This high-profile lawsuit comes after more than fifty fake adverts featuring Mr Lewis were found to have been published in the last year.
The adverts in question have been used to scam people out of thousands of pounds, with the ads suggesting the various schemes were fully backed by Mr Lewis himself.
“Enough is enough,” says Lewis. “I’ve been fighting for over a year to stop Facebook letting scammers use my name and face to rip off vulnerable people – yet it continues.”
“I only pursued it because I thought it was recommended by Martin”
In response to this recent scandal, the MoneySavingExpert.com website has recently released a guide to identifying fake adverts and notes comments from those who have previously been conned.
The article mentions one user that agreed to pay £9,500 for a new boiler after “seeing an alleged Martin-Lewis endorsed advert”.
Over the last year, the company’s founder has been plastered on advertising shared on Facebook for a number of “get rich quick” schemes, binary trading firms, PPI companies and various mortgage brokers – making consumers believe the company is supported by Lewis and the Money Saving Expert.
“I do not appear in adverts, full-stop – no company pays me to do an advert,” says Lewis. “I have made this clear to Facebook – any ad with me in it is fake.”
He went on to say that, as Facebook are the “facial recognition experts”, it is up to them to “be able to spot when they are being paid” for fake advertising.
On ITV’s This Morning, Lewis said that he simply “want[s] to protect people – that’s what I’ve spent my career doing. It sickens me that my name is being perverted in this way to scam people.”
Facebook coming under fire
Lewis stated in the Money Saving Expert blog that he plans to bring the defamation case against Facebook to court as the fake ads have both tarnished his reputation and caused many unwitting victims to lose large sums of money.
As Lewis is a high-profile campaigner, who has famously taken on large banks, utility companies and other firms on his ITV show, the case has attracted a great deal of public attention – leading many to believe he will win his case.
In response to the proposed lawsuit, Facebook issued a statement, saying:
“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.”
Lewis added that Facebook’s response has been consistently ineffective and that legal action will help the company to “take responsibility” for the content that is published on their platform.
Conservative MP and leader of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sports Committee, Damian Collins, says Facebook should look into new ways to block fake promotions. “Martin Lewis’s case highlights yet another failure on the part of Facebook to protect its users.
“The fact that the face of a man who has dedicated himself to aiding consumers to spend their money wisely could be used to defraud those very same people is something that Facebook should be ashamed of,” he said.
What Lewis hopes to achieve
The online conversation around the lawsuit has been extremely popular with comments flying into Lewis’ Twitter account.
Lewis has said that he hopes the case will help consumers to recognise scam adverts, noting that he does not
“want a day in court. If Facebook said now “we’ll change the systems so this never happens to you or anyone else again”, I’d drop the suit in a second.”
He also added that, should he win the case against Facebook, he plans on giving “every penny” to anti-scammer charities.