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Tuesday 23 February 2016

16-041MR ASIC stops potentially misleading SMSF social media advertising

Following ASIC raising concerns, Urban Seed Project Marketing Pty Ltd (Urban Seed), Skybridge Portfolios (Skybridge) Pty Ltd and Tatnell DLS (Tatnell) Pty Ltd have taken steps to remove or amend potentially misleading representations about Self Managed Super Funds (SMSFs) in social media advertising.

Skybridge and Tatnell

Skybridge’s Facebook page included representations such as “Get yourself a SMSF for your Super – from $99, fully advised. No industry fund can compete with this” and “Want your Super Fund to replace your current income from work? You need to look at a SMSF – highest account balances out of all Super Funds.”

Tatnell’s YouTube videos included representations favourably comparing SMSFs to other superannuation funds without explaining or referencing the range of factors that will contribute to whether an SMSF is better performing or lower cost to consumers than industry and retail funds. 

ASIC was concerned that the representations made by Skybridge and Tatnell were potentially misleading about the benefits, risks and costs associated with SMSFs. Advertisements regarding financial products, including SMSFs, should give a balanced message about the returns, features, benefits and risks associated with a product. They should also not draw comparisons with other products without qualification or substantiation. 

Urban Seed

Urban Seed’s YouTube videos linked to a promotional website which included representations about “SMSF qualified” and “SMSF friendly” properties available for sale.

ASIC was concerned that the promotional website suggested that there was a category of property particularly suited to investment through an SMSF. Whether or not property is suitable for purchase through an SMSF will depend upon the investment strategy of the SMSF purchasing the property and the circumstances of the purchase. 

ASIC Deputy Chair Peter Kell said, ‘Accuracy in advertising is integral to maintaining consumer trust and confidence in the SMSF sector. ASIC will continue to take action where we  see advertising that might mislead consumers, whether that advertising is on social media or more traditional media '

Skybridge, Urban Seed and Tatnell have all removed the relevant posts and videos, have ensured future marketing on social media will undergo appropriate review and approvals processes, and have fully cooperated in responding to ASIC's concerns.

Background

With the growing popularity of social media sites including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, social media has become an increasingly important channel for the promotion of financial products and services, including SMSFs. 

In 2012 in response to the growth in SMSFs, ASIC established the SMSF Taskforce. A specific focus of the taskforce has been misleading advertising of SMSFs. Particular problems identified include misleading or deceptive statements about SMSF fees, returns and risks. 

In 2014 and 2015 ASIC’s SMSF Taskforce expanded its work on SMSF advertising to include a review of online SMSF advertising through social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Youtube. 

Outcomes and actions stemming from the SMSF Taskforce include:

  • Following an ASIC investigation, Ms Sarah Jane Busteed was charged with three counts of dishonestly obtaining a financial advantage by deception and one count of dealing with over $100,000 that was the proceeds of crime (refer: 16-040MR);
  • Superannuation Warehouse Australia Pty Ltd was ordered to pay a penalty of $25,000 for false and misleading“Free SMSF Setup” advertising (refer: 15-332MR);
  • The Supreme Court of NSW found Park Trent Properties Group Pty Ltd had been unlawfully carrying on a financial services business for over five years by providing advice to clients to purchase investment properties through a SMSF (refer: 15-300MR);
  • Dixon Advisory Group Limited complied with two ASIC infringement notices, paying two $10,200 penalties after including potentially misleading claims on its website (refer: 15-207MR);
  • The credit licence of Queensland-based Smithson & Baye was cancelled following an investigation into a property and SMSF promoting group (refer: 15-228MR);
  • ASIC released two information sheets to improve the quality of advice provided by advisers on  SMSFs: Information Sheet 205Advice on self-managed superannuation funds: Disclosure of risks (INFO 205) and Information Sheet 206 Advice on self-managed superannuation funds: Disclosure of costs (INFO 206) (refer 15-192MR).
  • Omniwealth Services paid a $10,200 penalty for potentially misleading claims on its website (refer: 15-190MR);
  • The principal of Sherwin Financial Planners, Bradley Thomas Sherwin, was charged with fraud. The charges relate to the use of SMSFs of former clients of Sherwin Financial Planners (refer: 15-158MR);
  • The Federal Court of Australia ruled that Craig Gore and several other parties and financial services businesses, including Queensland-based ActiveSuper and Royale Capital, contravened sections of the Corporations Act or were knowingly concerned in those contraventions. (refer: 15-134MR);
  • Australian Financial Planning Solutions Pty Ltd paid $10,200 in penalties for potentially misleading SMSF ads (refer: 15-052MR);
  • ASIC banned the founder of the Charterhill Group of Companies, George Nowak, from providing financial services until 3 July 2017 on the basis that Mr Nowak is an undischarged bankrupt (refer: 15-048MR);
  • Interprac Financial Planning agreed to address ASIC concerns relating to advice provided to some clients about SMSFs (refer: 14-258MR);
  • Sentry Financial Services agreed to address ASIC concerns about SMSF advice provided to clients (refer: 14-109MR);
  • SuperHelp Australia paid a $10,200 penalty after making potentially misleading statements about the cost of setting up SMSF (refer: 14-051MR);
  • Media Super paid $10,200 in penalties for potentially misleading SMSF ads (refer: 14-001MR);
  • Spring Financial Group entered into an enforceable undertaking following ASIC concerns about the level of monitoring and supervision of its representatives (refer: 13-263MR);
  • Anne Street Partners agreed to engage an independent expert following ASIC concerns about SMSF advice provided to clients (refer: 13-248MR); and
  • publishing Report 337 Improving the quality of advice given to SMSF investors. (refer: 13-081MR).

SMSFs will continue to be a focus in ASIC's enforcement work.

Last updated: 23/03/2016 03:05