The U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has stepped up efforts to combat investor harm amid the conditions created by the Covid-19 outbreak, which has intensified concerns about investment scams and other forms of abuse.
In a new report, the FCA detailed the work done during the first 10 months of 2020 to protect investors from potentially abusive activity.
The report indicated that the FCA received more than 24,000 reports of unauthorized activity during the 10-month period, up from 20,300 in all of 2019.
The regulator also opened 1,542 supervisory cases involving suspected scams or risky investments.
“New cases have remained high throughout the year,” the FCA said, with peaks in February, June and July.
The regulator also rejected applications for authorization from 343 firms or individuals during the 10-month period, amid concerns about possible investor harm. That represented about 10% of the applications received during the period.
The incidence of financial scams being promoted through online has also been a key focus for the regulator.
“We think online platform operators, like Google, should bear clear legal liability for the financial promotions advertised on their platforms,” the FCA said, adding that it’s considering extending rules regarding financial promotions to these kinds of companies. It’s also considering whether it needs any new powers over those firms.
“This work is relevant not just to the promotion of higher risk investments but to our work to address online harms — including scams — more generally,” the report said.
“The UK has one of the world’s leading financial services industries, offering consumers access to a wide range of investment products. In some areas however, the consumer investment market is not working as well as it should and too often consumers are offered unsuitable products or advice,” said Sheldon Mills, executive director, consumers and competition at the FCA, in a release.