Superannuation provider BT Super has paid $20,400 in penalties after the corporate regulator took action against the company’s online advertising.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission said in a statement on Tuesday it issued BT Super with two infringement notices, each worth $10,200, for misleading statements that appeared in search engine advertising by BT Super during the second half of 2014.
The first notice related to Google AdWords that used the statement: “BT Super Has Outperformed Industry Super Funds Over the Last 5 Years*”. The statement appeared in search results between June 26 and September 18, 2014.
ASIC said it was concerned consumers would be misled by the statement to believe that BT Super products generated greater returns than products from industry super funds during that timeframe when in fact the opposite was true.
The second infringement notice also related to Google AdWords, this time appearing in search results between October 29 and November 17, 2014. The ads in this instance had headlines containing the words “Industry Super Australia”.
ASIC said BT Super’s use of the three words could mislead consumers into incorrectly believing BT has an affiliation with the Industry Super Australia, an organisation that represents 15 industry super funds.
While BT Super has paid both infringement notices, paying an infringement notice from ASIC does not amount to an admission that the consumer protection provisions of the ASIC Act were breached.
SmartCompany understands the first Google AdWords statement referred to data compiled by SuperRatings, which did show BT Super for Life 1970s Lifestyle Fund outperforming some comparable industry super funds in the five year period.
However, a BT spokesperson told SmartCompany this morning both advertisements “contained material that was published in error”.
“In each case, this was a result of internal administrative mistakes and process breakdowns between BT and a third party for which BT accepts full responsibility,” the spokesperson says.
“Because these ads were a bespoke element of a much broader advertising campaign, both ads received less than 30 ‘clicks’ in total. Regardless, we take these incidents very seriously and have now implemented formal, mandatory processes to ensure these incidents cannot occur again.”
ASIC deputy chairman Peter Kell said in the statement the regulator is continuing its efforts to monitor advertising of financial products and will take action when it believes consumers may be misinformed.
“The advertising of financial products and services must be clear, accurate and balanced and should be presented in a way that avoids potentially misleading or deceiving consumers,” Kell said.