Money Saving Expert founder Martin Lewis is launching a High Court legal battle against Facebook over claims it is publishing scam adverts using his name to con people out of money, which has damaged his reputation.
The journalist says he wants to give the social network a “bloody nose” and change the way it operates amid claims more than 50 fake posts bearing his name have been published on Facebook in the last year.
Lewis told the Press Association the legal action was the result of months of frustration with scammers piggybacking on his reputation and preying on Facebook users with outlandish get-rich-quick scams.
He said people have handed over thousands of pounds in good faith, only to find the advert has nothing to do with Lewis or his company.
Any damages won through the lawsuit will be donated to charity, but Lewis said the real aim was to force the social media behemoth to change its policy and reduce the risk of such scams being hosted by Facebook.
He 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.
He proposes, 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 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.”
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.”
Facebook told the BBC: “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.”
It added: “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.”
Picture: Ian West/PA Wire