Company hit with $25K penalty over SMSF advertising

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The Federal Court has ordered a superannuation administrator to pay a $25,000 penalty over advertising claims.

ASIC said the Court had ordered Superannuation Warehouse of Australia Pty Ltd (SWA) to pay the fine for "Free SMSF Setup" advertising on two websites it operated. The company, which provides online accounting and administration services for self-managed super funds, admitted that the statements were false and misleading. It also consented to declarations and additional orders requiring it to implement a compliance program, post notices on the websites about the proceeding and notify consumers who applied for the free SMSF setup.

The Court found that the advertising was false, misleading and deceptive, because it represented that the company would set up an SMSF at no cost. In reality, SWA's online application form for free SMSF setup could not be submitted without authorising SWA to be the administrator, for which there was a fixed monthly fee. SWA also requested applicants put in place a payment plan for monthly administration fees.

"Deciding to establish a self-managed superannuation fund is a significant financial decision.  Consumers should not be misled by advertising, including online.  ASIC considers that terms such as 'free' convey a strong impression to consumers and should not be used where there is any charge or cost associated with the product or service advertised," ASIC deputy chair Peter Kell said.