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ASIC has recently ‘cracked down’ on a number of financial services and credit businesses whose websites contain misleading content. Here’s some tips to ensure your website and social media doesn’t attract ASIC’s attention for the wrong reasons.

The print and TV media laws and regulations apply equally to websites and social media used for business purposes. The key obligation is to represent your business and its services honestly and accurately. If what you say about your products and services on your website or social media pages is likely to mislead or deceive, fines, penalties, corrective advertising, refunds and other sanctions can apply.

The first of our blogs on this topic looks at some basic techniques for ensuring your online marketing doesn’t attract the ASIC’s attention for all the wrong reasons.

  • Website information must be up to date at all times. Check your website regularly. If something has changed, immediately update the content or remove the outdated webpage. This is particularly important for an offer that is limited as to time or is subject to change; refers to, rates, returns or other information that changes from time to time.
  • Don’t ‘stretch’ the truth -ever. Every statement must be truthful. Claims about having the ‘best price’, ‘lowest price’, ‘best rates’ or ‘the most comprehensive protection’ must be absolutely accurate. If you can’t prove it, you can’t say it!
  • Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Clients looking for a trusted adviser won’t be impressed by inflated claims about what you can do for them – don’t say ‘we guarantee returns of X%’ or ‘you’ll definitely save $X’ unless you can keep the promises in every case.
  • Tell your customers the good and the not so good. Don’t leave out information about costs, charges or fees that apply to your services and products. For example, if only part of your service is free or customers might incur exit fees or lose benefits by changing to your product, give the customer the full picture so they can make a considered purchasing decision. Otherwise, you could mislead them.
  • Clearly identify the service or product provider. Customers need to know who they are dealing with, whether the person is licensed or authorised to provide financial services and who is responsible for the services or products. So identify your status - AFS licensee or AR and your licence number or AR number. If you’re using a trading or business name, identify the company or person who owns and operates under that name. If you’re partnering with a product provider, identify the product provider to avoid holding out that it’s your product.
  • Avoid comparisons. Comparative advertising is a dangerous practice. You must be able to substantiate every claim you make about why your services or products are better than your competitor – ASIC expects you to do it fairly and accurately. You can’t compare things that are not similar and you can’t leave out key points that would be important to the consumer but may not be favourable to you. Any comparative advertising needs the support and sign off of a legal professional.
  • Only use genuine customer testimonials. Before publishing a testimonial check that the customer is happy for you to publish it. It’s ok to give customers an incentive to provide a testimonial provided you offer it to all customers. In some cases it may need to be disclosed.

Our next blog will look at advertising warnings for retail clients, why certain terms can’t be used or might be restricted and it will provide guidelines for giving disclosure documents through your site.

For legal advice on your website or advertising content, contact us for a quote.

Author: Charmian Holmes

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