ASIC cracks down on use of 'independent'
The corporate regulator has taken action against four firms for their misleading use of the restricted terms 'independent' and 'independently owned'.
ASIC has forced Financial Spectrum, James Gerrard (authorised representative of Australian Financial Advisory Group), PWK Private Wealth Advisors (AR of Paragem) and Debbie Hudson Financial Services (trading as Wealth Fusion) to amend "false claims of independence".
Following surveillance of the four financial advice companies, ASIC has required them to "cease and amend false claims of independence that could mislead consumers" that were made on websites and marketing material.
"ASIC will continue to publicly name advisers who do not comply with their obligations under s923A and, where appropriate, take action to enforce the obligations in s923A and to ensure consumers are not misled about the nature of the service they are receiving," said the regulator in an accompanying statement.
"Enforcing transparency and accuracy in disclosure are important components in ASIC’s ongoing work to improve standards in the financial advice industry."
The regulator updated its guidance to restrict the use of terms implying independence in November 2017.
Under the updated guidance, the use of the terms ‘independently owned’, ‘non-aligned’ and ‘non-institutionally owned’ are now restricted under the Corporations Act.
ASIC took similar action against Findex Group Limited and Financial Index Australia in October 2016, fining both companies $10,800.
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