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Industry super accused of misleading consumers

Liberal MP Jason Falinski has accused industry super funds of using the Google AdWords term 'retail super' after BT was fined for using the term 'industry super'.

The subject arose as Falinski questioned ASIC during the Senate Parliamentary Joint Committee, Corporations and Financial Services on its litigation against Mayfair 101.

Part of ASIC's case against Mayfair 101 is the allegation that it used Google Ad Words like "term deposit" to advertise debenture products with a vastly different risk profile than term deposits.

"At a previous hearing in November last year, I asked you why it was that ASIC had issued a penalty to BT for misleading statements online which were to do with them using the key term 'industry super' when people Googled. You issued them a penalty totally $20,400, is that right?" Falinski said.

ASIC chair James Shipton said he would have to take the question about BT's fine on notice.

Falinski pushed ahead with the line of questioning, saying:"As part of our enquiry into industry super, we have asked them to provide us with the search terms they use in their advertising. With the exception of Tasplan, industry super has refused to do so."

"Could it be that it's because when you type in 'retail super' you find a lot of industry super funds come up in those search terms."

Shipton declined to comment.

"Why is it that industry super is allowed to use key terms in their advertising such as 'retail super' and that has not prompted an investigation however other funds that are not industry funds receive enquiries from ASIC?" Falinski asked.

Shipton did not provide an answer.

When Googling the term 'retail super' the paid advertisements that appears is for the Retail Employees Superannuation Trust (REST), HESTA, cbus and First State appear.

Googling 'retail superannuation' advertisements for HESTA and First State appear again as well as ads for Dixon Advisory and ING.

In 2015, BT was fined $20,400 by ASIC for two infringement notices. One of the notices (carrying a $10,200 fine) was issued for the inclusion of the words 'Industry Super Australia' in headlines of BT advertisements published on search result pages in 2014.

"ASIC was concerned that BT misled consumers into believing that BT had an affiliation with Industry Super Australia (ISA), an organisation which manages collective projects on behalf of fifteen industry super funds. BT has never had an affiliation with ISA," ASIC said at the time.

The matter did not specifically relate to the purchasing of AdWords.

The second infringement notice at the time related to BT claiming in advertising material that it had outperformed industry funds.

Read more: INGBTASICFirst StateGoogle AdWordsHESTAIndustry Super AustraliaLiberal MP Jason FalinskiMayfairDixon AdvisoryGoogledJames ShiptonRetail Employees Superannuation TrustTasplan
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