ASIC opens channels for digital disclosure

Financial advisers will now be able to communicate all disclosures to their clients through digital channels, according to new measures released by ASIC.

The corporate regulator has released new guidance and waivers of digital disclosures which the regulator says will encourage advisers and financial services providers to create innovative means to communicate information about their services and products.

ASIC added that making it easier for businesses to communicate information digitally will enhance consumer understanding and reduce red tape.

Commenting on the release of the new measures, ASIC commissioner John Price said they come in response to "changing consumer preferences" for making transactions digitally.

"Almost 15 million Australians now have a home internet connection and 68 per cent of those online are using three or more devices to access the internet," Mr Price said.

"The changes mean product disclosure statements (PDSs) and other financial services disclosure documents will be delivered to consumers digitally as the default option, unless the consumer opts out.

"This will reduce the costs of printing and mailing for businesses while preserving choice for those consumers who wish to receive paper," he said.

ASIC said the changes to digital disclosure follow recent consultation through the regulator's Paper 224 Facilitating electronic financial services disclosures.

FSC chief executive Sally Loane said the new measures announced by ASIC will bring the delivery of disclosure documents into the digital age.

"Digital will become the default mode for disclosure documents under the updated guidance regime," Ms Loane said.

"Regulations that have prescribed (or default) paper-based disclosure are the dinosaurs of the industry.

"They are expensive to administer and have contributed to consumer disengagement from financial services, including superannuation," she said.

Ms Loane added that these measures will allow for businesses to match consumer appetite for "quick, accessible electronic communication in clear language".

"The new regime is also consistent with the Financial System Inquiry's recommendations around technology neutral regulation and removing regulatory impediments to innovative product disclosure and communication with customers," she said.

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