ASIC responds to industry fund ad debacle

ASIC has released further details of its decision to fine BT for advertising aligning itself with the industry fund sector, after the head of the House economics committee demanded the regulator investigate similar conduct by a number of industry funds.

In questions on notice provided to the parliamentary joint committee on corporations and financial services, ASIC said the fine handed down to the wealth management institution in 2015 had involved a Google ad where the headline included the words ‘Industry Super Australia’.

“ASIC was concerned that BT misled consumers into believing that BT had an affiliation with Industry Super Australia (ISA), an organisation which manages collective projects on behalf of 15 industry super funds,” the regulator said. 

“BT has never had an affiliation with ISA.”

The regulator continued that the ad created “a misleading perception” that BT was an industry super fund.

The comments come following previous ifa reporting that House economics committee chair Tim Wilson had uncovered evidence of industry funds using similar Google advertising.

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Documentation provided by Mr Wilson revealed both Hesta and Australian Super had previously purchased Google AdWords based on the search term “retail super transfer”.

Mr Wilson questioned ASIC commissioner Danielle Press around the funds’ conduct at a recent House economics committee hearing, saying the funds in question had “refused to provide evidence” of AdWords they had purchased when questions on notice were requested by the committee.

In its response to a similar line of questioning from PJC member and Liberal MP Jason Falinski, ASIC said Mr Falinski’s question around the AdWords purchased by industry funds had been “framed in general terms, making it difficult to make an assessment of any particular conduct the member may be referring to”.

“If there is evidence of misleading or other conduct contrary to law in relation to advertisements on Google, ASIC will consider appropriate regulatory action,” the regulator said.

“ASIC applies the same legal standard to all superannuation trustees. In relation to advertising, our focus is generally whether or not there is misleading conduct. 

“If the member has concerns about specific examples of potentially misleading use of Google Ads by superannuation funds, these can be referred to ASIC for further investigation.” 

ASIC responds to industry fund ad debacle
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