Australia's consumer watchdog sues Meta for allegedly misleading users with crypto scam ads

The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) announced on March 18 that it has taken legal action against Meta, alleging that the company had misled Facebook users by publishing advertisements for crypto scams featuring local public figures unaware of the content. 

"The ACCC alleges that the ads, which promoted investment in cryptocurrency or money-making schemes, were likely to mislead Facebook users into believing the advertised schemes were associated with well-known people featured in the ads, such as businessman Dick Smith, TV presenter David Koch and former NSW Premier Mike Baird," the ACCC said in its statement. "The schemes were in fact scams, and the people featured in the ads had never approved or endorsed them."

According to the ACCC, the Facebook ads linked to a fake article with quotes from those celebrities endorsing cryptocurrencies and financial schemes. When people signed up for these schemes, scammers called them repeatedly and convinced them to invest funds. One consumer reported losing more than AUS$650,000 (nearly $482,000).

The ACCC alleges in its case that Meta was aware of the ads but did not do enough to address the situation. “The essence of our case is that Meta is responsible for these ads that it publishes on its platform,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said in the commission's announcement.


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The ACCC said it had started proceedings against Meta Platforms, Inc. and Meta Platforms Ireland Limited in federal court. The consumer watchdog alleges that Meta's conduct was in violation of Australian Consumer Law and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act.

“Ads that seek to scam people out of money or mislead people on Facebook violate our policies," a Meta company spokesperson told The Block. "We use technology to detect and block scam ads and work to get ahead of scammers’ attempts to evade our detection systems. We’ve cooperated with the ACCC’s investigation into this matter to date. We will review the recent filing by the ACCC and intend to defend the proceedings. We are unable to further comment on the detail of the case as it is before the Federal Court.” 
Australia is not the only government cracking down on crypto ads and celebrity endorsements. The UK, Singapore and Spain are among other countries increasing their scrutiny of crypto marketing. 

About Author

Kristin Majcher is a senior correspondent at The Block, based in Colombia. She covers the Latin America market. Before joining, she worked as a freelancer with bylines in Fortune, Condé Nast Traveler and MIT Technology Review among other publications.