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Tuesday 21 July 2015

15-190MR Omniwealth pays penalty for potentially misleading advertising

Omniwealth Services Pty Ltd has complied with an ASIC infringement notice, paying a  $10,200 penalty after including potentially misleading claims on its website.

Omniwealth's website included a page on the advantages of investing in property within a self-managed super fund (SMSF). This page compared the performance of a geared property investment within a self-managed super fund to an ungeared equity investment within a self-managed super fund.

The webpage was also promoted through the social media profile of Omniwealth's CEO with a statement that investing in property in a self-managed super fund has taxation, leverage and diversification advantages and included a link to the Omniwealth webpage's related article.

ASIC was concerned that the webpage did not give a balanced message about the returns, benefits and risks of investing in property in a self-managed super fund, and in particular that the uncertainty of forecasts was not made clear.

ASIC Deputy Chair Peter Kell said: ‘Making appropriate investment decisions is one of the most important responsibilities of SMSF trustees. ASIC is determined that SMSF trustees get accurate information and are not misled by advertising, including on websites and through social media.'

As the use of social media for promoting financial products and advice services increases, it is important that financial consumers are not misled or misinformed. ASIC encourages financial services providers using social media to regularly review their content and consider ASIC's guidance on promoting financial products and advice services in Regulatory Guide 234 Advertising financial products and advice services including credit: Good practice guidance. (RG 234)

Omniwealth has removed the statements from its website and related social media profiles and has fully cooperated in responding to ASIC's concerns.

Background

The payment of an infringement notice is not an admission of a contravention of the ASIC Act consumer protection provisions. ASIC can issue an infringement notice where it has reasonable grounds to believe a person has contravened certain consumer protection laws.

In 2012, in response to the growth in SMSFs ASIC established an SMSF Taskforce. The advertising to SMSF trustees or potential trustees through social media has been a recent specific focus of the Taskforce.

Publically available information may be read, and acted on, by a wide range of consumers with a variety of personal circumstances. ASIC encourages all SMSF trustees to look at the information available on the MoneySmart website and provided by the Australian Tax Office. Content that recommends a strategy, which requires a particular set of personal circumstances for it to be relevant, may be better suited to a personal advice situation.

Read the infringement notice here.

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Last updated: 23/03/2016 03:08