The Australian Securities ad Investments Commission (ASIC) has published an information sheet about discussing financial products and services online. It outlines how the law applies to social media influencers, and the licensees who use them.
ASIC Commissioner Cathie Armour said,
‘The way investors access information is changing. It is crucial that influencers who discuss financial products and services online comply with the financial services laws. If they don’t, they risk substantial penalties and put investors at risk.’
In 2021, the ASIC young people and money survey found that 33% of 18-21 year olds follow at least one financial influencer on social media. The survey found a further 64% of young people reported changing at least one of their financial behaviours as a result of following a financial influencer.
INFO 269 Discussing financial products and services online:
- highlights activities where influencers may contravene the law if they are unaware of the legal requirements, using a series of practical examples on:
- financial product advice
- dealing by arranging
- misleading or deceptive conduct
- explains issues for influencers to consider including:
- whether an AFS licence is needed
- being familiar with relevant regulatory guidance
- doing their due diligence on people who are paying them (including non-monetary benefits)
- reminds AFS licensees who use influencers to:
- do their due diligence
- have appropriate risk management systems and monitoring processes
- have sufficient compliance resourcing to monitor the influencers they use
- consider their design and distribution obligations.
The licensing provisions under the Corporations Act 2001 (the Act) apply to persons who provide financial product advice or arrange for a person to deal in a financial product when carrying on a financial services business. Carrying on an unlicensed financial services business is an offence under the Act, unless authorised as a representative of a licensee or relying on an exemption.
The Act imposes significant penalties, including up to five years’ imprisonment for an individual and financial penalties into the millions of dollars for a corporation.
The law also prohibits conduct that is misleading or deceptive, or is likely to mislead or deceive, in relation to financial products or services. An influencer does not need to be licensed to breach the misleading or deceptive provisions.