Banks change ads as ASIC cracks whip
Two of Australia's biggest banks have been forced to change their advertising after the corporate regulator found it was "inappropriate" and "potentially misleading".
The Commonwealth Bank and HSBC Australia have been using ads for complex financial products, designed for unsophisticated retail investors, which create the impression that those products are simpler and less risky than they are.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission said it "raised concerns" with the banks about the advertising which forced the banks to change their practices.
In Commonwealth's case, the bank was promoting its "protected loan" product (an interest-only product that allows customers to borrow money to purchase shares in two payments) by comparing it to someone who invests in shares with money that hasn't been borrowed.
The ads stated that protected loan customers could "walk away with no loss" at maturity if the price of their shares fell, but ASIC said that was "potentially misleading" because the costs of the loan and protection had not been considered.
In the case of HSBC Australia, the promotion of some structured financial products on the bank's website created the impression that some of the investments were low-risk, when that "was not the case".
"HSBC claimed that its structured products were suitable for 'traditional deposit investors looking for a way to enhance their returns through exposure to financial markets, but are unwilling to put their capital at risk should the market not perform as expected'," the ASIC website says.
"[But] this statement was inappropriate and potentially misleading due to the risk of capital loss with certain [of the] HSBC structured products being promoted."
It is understood that ASIC will also be taking action against Woolworths Car Insurance for making false claims in its advertising.