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15-215MR Perth-based Nicheliving companies penalised for misleading advertising
ASIC has acted against companies associated with Perth-based property developer, the Nicheliving group, for misleading advertising.
ASIC has issued infringement notices on Australian Property Alliance Pty Ltd (APA) and imposed new licence conditions on the Australian credit licence of Wealth WA Pty Ltd (WWA), which provided financial services in the course of the Nicheliving group's primary business, property development and real estate sales.
Four infringement notices were issued to APA, resulting in payment of $40,800, for misleading advertisements published on various websites administered by APA, the Nicheliving Facebook page, YouTube, as well as on television channels 1, 9, 10, 11 and GEM during the period 14 May 2014 to 16 October 2014.
The advertisements represented that consumers could obtain an investment property from "just $59 per week". ASIC was concerned that the advertisements were misleading because they did not disclose the detailed assumptions and qualifications which underpinned a negative gearing investment strategy, requiring the consumer to enter into a mortgage to finance the purchase of the property and to pay an upfront amount of $35,000.
ASIC was also concerned by the accuracy of other historical advertising published by WWA which included headline claims to the effect that its financial services could assist consumers to:
- pay off their mortgages in eight years instead of 30;
- legally reduce their tax to nil; and
- increase their net worth by $100,000 by investing $59 per week.
In response to ASIC's concerns, APA and WWA have agreed to:
- engage an independent compliance consultant to review their respective advertising policies and procedures; and
- adopt training procedures to ensure their staff are informed of legal requirements in relation to marketing undertaken in connection with financial products or financial services.
The requirement to engage an independent compliance consultant will be included as a condition of WWA's credit license.
Deputy Chairman Peter Kell said, 'The advertising of credit products and services must be clear, accurate and balanced, particularly in relation to the sale of real estate which may involve borrowing significant sums of money.
'ASIC wants to ensure consumers have a clear understanding of the commitments they are entering into and are not misled by grand claims. We will act against companies where we consider their advertising is potentially misleading or deceptive'.
WWA and APA withdrew the advertising after being informed of ASIC's concerns.
ASIC has recently taken a number of actions against other entities to address concerns in relation to the provision of consumer credit and financial services for residential property investment.
Examples of recent actions include:
- 15-134MR Decision in ActiveSuper civil proceedings
- 15-102MR ASIC cancels Australian credit licence of property spruiking firm
- 15-048MR Charterhill director George Nowak, banned from providing financial services
- 15-043MR Equanimity penalised for misleading ads
- 14-299MR ASIC seeks court order to stop property promoter from providing unlicensed financial product advice on SMSFs
ASIC can issue an infringement notice where it has reasonable grounds to believe a person has contravened certain consumer protection laws. The payment of an infringement notice is not an admission of a contravention of the ASIC Act consumer protection provisions.