ASIC has warned the industry that misuse of the term independent will result in strong action by the regulator, including publicly naming companies found to be in breach.
In a recent surveillance project, Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) found 21 instances of insurance brokers and financial planners making statements about the independence of the licensee or the services they provide in breach of the Corporations Act.
AFS licensees are prohibited from using the terms, 'independent', 'unbiased' or 'impartial' if they receive commission or volume-based payments.
The Australian Financial Services Licensees (AFS) identified included 17 general insurance brokers, 3 financial planners and 1 life broker.
"ASIC conducted the survey following a single complaint in order to assess the extent of the problem of inappropriate usage of the term 'independent'," said Peter Kell, ASIC commissioner.
Kell said, ASIC's first priority is to ensure people are receiving the information they need to make informed and confident financial decisions.
"We will not tolerate them being mislead on the important issue of the independence of financial system gatekeepers such as financial advisers and insurance brokers.
"This action puts the broad financial services industry clearly on notice about ASIC's expectations. Going forward, where we find incorrect information about independence we will be taking stronger action including publicly naming the licensees involved," he said.
The relevant financial services licensees have now voluntarily complied with ASIC's request to remove or amend the statement in each of the 21 instances.
In the future, AFS licensees must ensure that statements made by representatives in any published material comply with the relevant provisions of the Corporations Act, said ASIC.