BT and ANZ may need to follow Industry Super Australia (ISA) in clarifying the language of their superannuation advertising campaigns, following a ruling by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) over use of the term 'average' in reference to super funds.
Both BT Super for Life and ANZ Smart Choice Super have used the word 'average' in recent advertisements without clarifying exactly what they are referring to.
One BT Super for Life advertisement states: "Our fees are also around half that of other personal retail super funds, the money you save on fees can make a big difference to your super balance over time."
An ANZ Smart Choice Super advertisement, meanwhile, states the product "offers choice and convenience at half the price of the average super fund."
ASIC expressed concern that ISA's use of the word average in its Compare the Pair advertisements may have been misleading to consumers. It asked ISA to "clarify the terms 'Average Retail Super Fund' and 'Average Industry Super Fund' by providing details about the samples used in the comparison, including the number of retail and industry funds in the samples."
The ASIC request for ISA to modify its ads has been treated as a victory by the retail super and financial advice industries.
Financial Services Council director of policy Andrew Bragg said: "Unless the advertisement compares like with like MySuper products, they will be meaningless for the 80% of Australians who are in default funds.
"The latest version of the ISA ad compares a hand-picked sample of the most expensive retail funds with a very short list of industry funds. This is meaningless for consumers. It's like comparing apples with carrots."
But Bragg's comments would appear also to apply to the BT and ANZ ads. BT and ANZ are both members of the FSC.
The Association of Financial Advisers chief executive Brad Fox said the ASIC ruling demonstrated that ISA could not be trusted in its position on the Future of Financial Advice (FoFA) reforms.
"This from the very group that has been so vocal about the FoFA amendments and the need for consumer protection. This really calls into question the ISA's integrity when lobbying against the proposed FoFA changes."
At time of writing neither BT nor ANZ had responded to enquiries as to whether they would continue to run their ads, or include voice-over and written disclaimers in the existing ads. ASIC would not confirm whether or not it was looking into the matter.
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