Free SMSF setup claims cop Federal Court fine

Free SMSF setup claims cop Federal Court fine
Free SMSF setup claims cop Federal Court fine

The Federal Court of Australia has made declarations and ordered Superannuation Warehouse Australia Pty Ltd (SWA) to pay a penalty of $25,000 for false and misleading “Free SMSF Setup” advertising.

The statements were made on two websites operated by SWA.

SWA, which provides online accounting and administration services for self-managed superannuation funds (SMSF), admitted that the statements were false and misleading. 

It consented to the declarations and additional orders requiring SWA to:

  • implement a compliance program;
  • post notices on the websites about the proceeding; and
  • notify consumers who applied to SWA for the free SMSF setup service about the proceeding.

The Federal Court found that between 22 January 2014 and 8 May 2015, the "Free SMSF Setup" statement on the websites was false, misleading and deceptive because it represented that SWA would set up an SMSF at no cost when in fact:

  • SWA’s online application form for the free SMSF set up service could not be submitted without authorising SWA to be the fund administrator for which there was a fixed monthly fee;
  • SWA requested applicants to put in place a payment plan for monthly payments of administration fees when it set up the SMSF; and
  • SWA charged monthly fees for its SMSF administration services.

These matters were not clearly or prominently disclosed on the websites.

In addition, between 22 January 2014 and 5 August 2014 applications for SMSF set up with a corporate trustee required a payment of $950 to be made to SWA, without this being clearly and as prominently stated on the websites where “Free SMSF Setup” was advertised.

In the judgment, His Honour Justice Beach found that the "Free SMSF Setup" representation was false or misleading in that:

"a)      the administrator consent was required for the “Free SMSF Setup”;

b)      the administrator consent affected the costs of the “Free SMSF Setup”; and

c)      monthly fees were required to be paid to SWA for its services.

In the circumstances the setup was not 'free'.”

ASIC Deputy Chair Peter Kell welcomed the decision saying establishing 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."

Jonathan Chancellor

Jonathan Chancellor

Jonathan Chancellor is one of Australia's most respected property journalists, having been at the top of the game since the early 1980s. Jonathan co-founded the property industry website Property Observer and has written for national and international publications.


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