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Colonial First State facing penalties for misleading superannuation members


Colonial First State has been found to have misled or deceived almost 13,000 members over a communications campaign to keep them in high-fee products.

Sponsored by Tony Zhang 9 minute read

The Federal Court has made declarations that Colonial First State Investments (Colonial), as trustee for the Colonial First State FirstChoice Superannuation Trust (FirstChoice Fund), made false or misleading representations and engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct when communicating with members.

In 2012, the Australian government passed superannuation industry reforms requiring trustees, like Colonial, to offer members a default “MySuper” superannuation product. MySuper products are designed to offer members a simple and cost-effective superannuation product with lower fees and straightforward features. 

The Court declared that on at least 12,978 occasions, in communication with members of the FirstChoice Fund, Colonial made misleading representations regarding investment directions. The misleading representations may have encouraged members to stay with the FirstChoice Fund rather than move to the MySuper product.

The misleading or deceptive conduct by Colonial included telling its members that recent legislative changes required Colonial to contact them and obtain an investment direction to stay in the FirstChoice Fund when that was not the case.

Colonial also failed to tell members that if it did not receive an investment direction from the member, it was required to transfer the member’s superannuation contributions into a MySuper product.

ASIC deputy chair Sarah Court said that superannuation fund members need to receive clear and accurate information to make informed decisions. 

“ASIC alleged Colonial made misleading representations which may have impacted members’ decisions about where to keep their funds and may have resulted in members’ funds being kept in higher fee-paying super products that included commissions,” Ms Court said.

“These actions did not put members’ interests first.”

The Court declared that Colonial, between 18 March 2014 and 21 July 2016 engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct by sending 12,911 letters to members containing misleading representations about investment directions and made false or misleading representations and engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct in 70 calls to members about investment directions.

It also failed to provide a general advice warning, as required by the Corporations Act, in 17 calls to members and failed to do all things necessary to ensure the financial services covered by its financial services licence were provided efficiently, honestly and fairly.

Colonial has consented to these declarations being made and a penalty hearing has been listed for 12 October 2021. 

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Tony Zhang

Tony Zhang


Tony Zhang is a journalist at Accountants Daily, which is the leading source of news, strategy and educational content for professionals working in the accounting sector.

Since joining the Momentum Media team in 2020, Tony has written for a range of its publications including Lawyers Weekly, Adviser Innovation, ifa and SMSF Adviser. He has been full-time on Accountants Daily since September 2021.

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