GOOGLE is to ban “fake” debt adverts from firms that make money out of those who are trying to sort out their finances.
Free debt help is available from leading charities but vulnerable people could be fooled into handing over cash for the service by adverts that appear at the top of Google searches.
Firms can pay to have their advert displayed when certain terms are typed into the search bar, such as StepChange or National Debtline.
These can then be easily confused with genuine websites the offer free financial help.
We first investigated the issue back in January 2018 and found that search engines had done very little to make any changes since then.
But from mid-November, firms will have to meet a certain standard of accreditation before being allowed to advertise debt help on Google.
Since The Sun highlighted the problem, StepChange has campaigned to get these confusing adverts banned to protect consumers.
The charity reported 129 cases of misleading advertising in the past two years to different search engines.
While all of the cases were upheld and the adverts taken down, firms could simply tweak it and pay for it to be displayed at the top of searches again.
The charity has even paid for their link to appear in the ads section at the top of the page on Google to help stop those searching for the charity from confusing it with a paid for service.
The new rules won’t let organisations advertise in this way unless it has been accredited by the Financial Conduct Authority or has a regulated Insolvency Practitioner status.
StepChange is now urging other search engines to follow Google’s lead in taking action against these kinds of practices.
Director of external affairs Richard Lane from the Charity said: “These impersonator firms tend to be highly opportunistic and adaptable and it would be very unfortunate if they were displaced from Google only to exploit other alternative channels instead.
“It’s still important for the financial and advertising regulators to take action, and for people needing help to be aware and to be vigilant about the risk of impersonators.”
Matthew Lavine, product policy specialist from Google added: “We are delighted to be able to implement this global policy which we believe will provide further protections for vulnerable users who come to Google for information on how to remedy their debt or credit problems.”
If you’re struggling with debt, here’s our eight step guide to sorting out your finances and how to get help for free.
Martin Lewis has also revealed how to claim back hundreds of pounds worth of overdraft charges after rip-off fees are banned.