Whether your business is financial services, credit services or
anything else, you are responsible for the content of the material
that you publish or otherwise issue into the public arena. In this
article we set out ten tips to keep your marketing material from
being misleading or deceptive.
This marketing material might be the content of your website,
brochures, print or electronic media advertising, BDM
presentations, call centre scripting, or direct mail campaigns. It
also includes advertising on social media. The same considerations
also apply to regulated disclosure documents such as your financial
services or credit guide, and product disclosure statements.
While the chief compliance consideration to keep in mind is to
avoid engaging in misleading or deceptive conduct, other important
considerations include the rules regarding copyright and
You may not think that misleading and deceptive conduct is
"a big deal", yet in the latest public figures available
(for the first half of 2015), 21% of ASIC's enforcement
outcomes in the financial sector related to dishonest,
unconscionable or misleading activity.
You may not think anyone will notice your humble little website,
yet the internet reaches into almost every home and office. Also,
ASIC has recently been focussing on social media advertising (such
as Facebook and YouTube). In addition to its own surveillance, ASIC
compiles market intelligence from complaints it receives, breach
reports, and even other ASIC filings (such as financial
ASIC Chairman, Greg Medcraft, has also noted that ASIC's
current focus on compliance culture potentially links
administrative registry data such as identifying licensees that
routinely file financial statements late, with its assessment of
the regulatory risk posed by that licensee.
Be organised – and stay that way
Most businesses have a marketing strategy that utilises themes
or a "look and feel" that sets that business apart in the
market place. This might include branding, colours, font colours
and styles, and layout. It often also includes standard text
describing the company, its products and their benefits.
Develop a library of templates with pre-approved standard text
and layout to ensure consistency and minimise the work required
when issuing a new document.
You may also be able to establish a suite of disclaimers for
various kinds of marketing material with instructions about when
each is required.
Make sure you have a process for keeping standard marketing
material such as brochures and your website accurate and
up-to-date. This might include subscription to a regulatory update
service to ensure you find out about relevant changes in the law;
change management processes to ensure your marketing materials are
reviewed as part of all business changes (e.g. new product
offerings), as well as periodic reviews diarised in a compliance
calendar; limits on who has authority to make changes; and a change
register to record every change made to the website or document,
and the approvals obtained.
Know your product. Don't guess!
Many sales teams are geographically dispersed, talking about
your product in print, on the phone, in presentations and in
meetings. You may have distribution networks whereby other
businesses are also talking about your product, making
representations to clients. In the financial services and credit
regulatory frameworks, what is being said about your product in all
these channels is likely to be your responsibility. The prohibition
on engaging in misleading or deceptive conduct is not limited to
intentional behaviour. How do you make sure everyone is on
Identify the product expert (or 'champion') in your
organisation and make sure your product expert approves all
training, marketing and other materials that mention the
Make sure all sales staff, including third party channels,
receive product training as part of the product launch, and that
this training is supported by reference materials and refreshed
whenever there are product changes. Follow up the training with a
monitoring and supervision program that fits your business
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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