BT Financial Group disagrees with ASIC’s definition of ‘personal advice’ and will vigorously oppose the Federal Court proceedings the regulator has taken against it.
Last week, ASIC announced it would take action against both Westpac Securities Administration Limited and BT Funds Management Limited over telephone sales campaigns run by the two firms, which the regulator alleges breached their licensing by providing personal advice.
BT Financial Group said it “believes it has met all requirements under a general advice model and has not failed any ‘best interest’ obligations”, as was alleged by the regulator.
“It is important Australians have good quality advice, guidance and information in language they can understand. ASIC’s interpretation of how general advice can be offered would be a bad policy outcome for Australians,” the company said.
“The legislation and ASIC’s own public guidance recognises that there are a range of customer engagement activities to help them manage their finances.”
BT Financial Group chief executive Brad Cooper said the company had conducted the sales campaigns “with the purpose of assisting its customers to consolidate their superannuation accounts” and that BT Financial Group did not agree with ASIC’s judgement.
“We reject ASIC’s legal interpretation that some customers may have thought they were receiving personal, rather than general advice,” he said.
“In each of the 15 conversations ASIC is using as the base of its case, our customers were given a ‘general advice warning’ as is standard and a required part of our process.”
Mr Cooper said he was “disappointed” the businesses ASIC has commenced proceedings against were not able to “resolve the difference of opinion as to the operation of the law with ASIC”, but that BT Financial Group “look forward to having the issue determined by the court to obtain important clarity for the industry”.
“We stand behind our work to assist customers to consolidate their superannuation accounts and to benefit from reduced duplication of fees and easier management,” he said.
“We take our obligations to provide compliant general advice to customers very seriously. These customer interactions have all been conducted in accordance with the spirit and requirements of the law and have provided real benefits to our customers.”
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