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Why Referencing the Regulator in Marketing Material is Risky Business

Posted on September 25th, 2017 by Sophie Gerber in ASIC

Entities that operate in the financial services and credit industries will often reference the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (‘ASIC‘) or use the ASIC logo in marketing material in an attempt to legitimise their business. However, use of the ASIC logo is not permitted and references to ASIC can often overstate ASIC’s extent of oversight.

References to ASIC and the use of the ASIC logo in marketing material is especially popular when targeting overseas clients. Globally, Australia is seen as one of the best jurisdictions when it comes to regulation of the financial services and credit industries. As a result, entities seek to promote themselves as ASIC regulated. When referencing ASIC in marketing material, entities should ensure they do not promote themselves as being supervised or approved by ASIC or stating that ASIC has oversight of the entity.

ASIC actively monitors the marketing and promotional material of financial services and credit industry participants and is often quick to correspond with entities who incorrectly reference or use ASIC’s logo. In severe circumstances (i.e. repeat offenders) ASIC may take enforcement action against the entity.

Recently, Huntley Management Limited (‘Huntley‘) was ordered by the Federal Court of Australia to pay a fine of $50,000 for false and misleading advertising. Huntley’s marketing material stated that its investment projects were “approved by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission” which was untrue. Huntley made these statements on its website over a five-year period as well as publishing two advertisements in newspapers.

ASIC’s media release stated, “ASIC encourages financial services providers to regularly review their website 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.”

Further to this, ASIC has made it very clear on their website that the ASIC logo is not to be used without the express permission of the Regulator. For further information on this please visit: Copyright and linking to our websites.

Entities providing financial services and credit services should take the opportunity to review the content of their website and any marketing material which has been recently issued or is still available, including:

  • Checking any references to ASIC do not imply that ASIC approves, supervises or has oversight of the entities operations;
  • Ensuring the ASIC logo does not appear on their website or marketing material;
  • Ensuring there is no false or misleading content included in the material; and
  • Reviewing their website and marketing material content against the requirements in RG234, the Corporations Act and the ASIC Act.

The requirements in relation to marketing material extend to content published on social media. Entities should ensure all staff are aware of the legislation and regulation regarding marketing and promotional material and receive regular training in relation to these issues.

Sophie Grace assists clients in meeting their compliance requirements including conducting marketing reviews. If you require assistance in reviewing your marketing material please contact us.

Financial services and credit industry participants can also purchase a Marketing Checklist template from our online shop for assistance in reviewing their own marketing materials.

Sarah Murray

Sarah works with the Compliance Team with a particular focus on compliance and legal services. Sarah also works with the Legal Team providing ongoing assistance in drafting and reviewing documentation as well as legal research. Sarah assists clients with AFSL and ACL applications, variations and also assists in the implementation of compliance reviews. She provides ongoing compliance support in the form of compliance program implementation and reviews.