An Australian security watchdog has offered an olive branch to a property management and financial planning business, warning them to clean up their act over misleading advertising.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has accepted an enforceable undertaking (EU) from Gold Coast-based Equanimity Concepts.
ASIC said from January 2012 to July 2014, Equanimity advertised on its website, YouTube and in numerous in-flight magazines and police journals that consumers could pay off their home loan in a very short amount of time.
For example, one line read, "Pay off your 25-year home loan in less than five years".
ASIC said by making these promises and publishing them in advertisements, Equanimity is relying on various assumptions in its financial modelling, which is considered by ASIC to be “unrealistic”, including but not limited to continued growth in property values, high rental returns, annual rent increases of eight per cent and no upward movements in applicable interest rates.
Equanimity presented to consumers that they could direct all and any rent and negative gearing tax benefits received in relation to the investment property into their existing home loan.
ASIC deputy chairman Peter Kell said the need for finance advertising to be accurate cannot be stressed enough.
“Anything misleading can create unrealistic expectations that may lead to poor financial decisions and, ultimately, consumers could end up in a dangerous debt spiral,” he said.
ASIC’s investigation found that Equanimity’s compliance processes in terms of its advertising were unsatisfactory and may have breached consumer protection credit laws.
“Consumers who may have comes across these ads may have been misled in Equanimity’s ability to help them pay back their home loan in a significantly reduced timeframe without incurring further debt,” Mr Kell said.
“Advertising of this nature will not be tolerated and ASIC will take swift action when confronted with false claims.”
Under the EU, Equanimity must appoint an independent consultant to review its compliance with consumer protection credit laws and proper advertising processes, and develop a plan to rectify any deficiencies identified by the expert.
The independent expert will report regularly to ASIC over the next year on Equanimity’s implementation of the plan.
The advertisements have been removed.