ASIC concerns lead to HSBC to change home loan advertising

HSBC Bank Australia has changed the advertising for its current ‘Let’s Bankercise’ campaign, in response to ASIC concerns that ads promoting a home loan discount were potentially misleading.

The ads featured a headline claim that consumers could receive ‘Up to 0.95% p.a. off a HSBC Home Smart Loan’. The ads also stated that the minimum loan amount for the offer was $250,000. The campaign was widely promoted using online, print and outdoor advertising.

However, in the fine print it was disclosed that only loans of $1,500,000 or larger were eligible for the full 0.95% discount, with smaller loan amounts starting from $250,000 receiving smaller discounts.

ASIC was concerned that as the loan amount that applied to the 0.95% discount was very large and was not prominently disclosed in the ad, consumers may be misled into believing they would receive a higher discount than what was actually available to them. HSBC has agreed to change the wording to more clearly disclose the discounts on offer.

‘Advertisements should give balanced information to ensure the overall effect creates realistic expectations about a financial product or service’, ASIC Commissioner Peter Kell said.

‘ASIC does not consider that a promoter can rely on statements such as “up to” if, in fact, the offer being promoted is only available in limited circumstances and this is not prominently disclosed.’

Mr Kell reminded promoters of financial products and financial advice services and publishers of advertising for these products and services that ASIC will be regularly reviewing ads, following on from ASIC’s recent release of Regulatory Guide 234 Advertising financial products and advice services: Good practice guidance (RG 234).

‘ASIC’s guidance will help industry participants understand their obligations but we are also sending a message that we will take action in response to misleading ads for financial products and services,’ Mr Kell said.

Consultation paper on advertising credit due in June 2012
ASIC will release a consultation paper on the advertising of credit products by the end of June 2012. This will complement the existing general guidance on advertising financial products and financial advice, which ASIC released on 14 February 2012 (refer 12-23MR).