ASIC targets planners claiming to be 'independent'

ASIC targets planners claiming to be 'independent'

The corporate regulator has taken action against three financial services firms after it was found they were making improper claims to be "independent".

The firms in question are Wilson HTM, Citywide Insurance Brokers and Financial Planners, and iSelect Life.

In a statement issued by the regulator, the three AFSL holders and representatives have been required to remove or "amend" claims made about the "independence" of their services, following concerns raised by ASIC.

ASIC said Citywide, a corporate authorised representative of Suncorp Financial Services, used the term "independent" on its website to describe its advisers.

Suncorp and its authorised representatives may be remunerated through commissions. It also sets its advisers' sales and retention targets in exchange for commercial benefits, ASIC said.

"Wilson used the term 'independent' to describe its business on its website and in a brochure that was distributed to consumers. iSelect used the term 'independent' to describe its services in three marketing emails that were distributed to consumers," the statement said.

"Wilson and iSelect both accept volume-based payments and commissions from product issuers in relation to the provision of financial services and advice."

Commenting on the action, ASIC deputy chair Peter Kell said: "Consumers must not be misled into believing that an adviser is independent and free from influence by commissions or other benefits or associations, when that is not the case."

He added: "The independence of financial system gatekeepers such as financial advisers is an important issue for consumers and investors, and may sway their decisions about their investments or their choice of adviser."

Under the Corporations Act, a person who carries on a financial services business or provides financial services is prohibited from using the restricted terms "independent", "impartial", or "unbiased" in relation to the service except where the person does not receive commissions, volume-based payments, benefits, and operates without any conflicts of interest. 

ASIC targets planners claiming to be 'independent'
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