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Compliant Finance Advertising Explained

Compliant Finance Advertising Explained

This article introduces some of the legal obligations that dictate the manner in which you represent yourself online, particularly as part of your advertising programs. The scope of non-compliance, and what can only be described as blatantly illegal advertising in the industry, is truly staggering, and it's only a matter of time before even the smallest brokers and ACL holders see themselves exposed to significant fines and litigation. More often that not, brokers are unaware of their malfeasance, as the advertising representing their brand, and the promotion that returns them 'leads', is managed by a lead generation company - something that no broker should ever do in the current market.

While the focus of this article is to highlight the basics of advertising compliance, we'll introduce the nature of illegal and somewhat ubiquitous nature of 'fake' broker websites, the misguided information supplied by these resources, and the erroneous results that are returned in order to create an expectation of qualification in the minds of the consumer.

First and foremost, we don't enjoy calling out the marketing mediocrity in the market. However, as the leading agency that provides a digital service, we felt an obligation to provide brokers with the education that they need in order to make informed decisions, and we felt it necessary to expose the experiences that many have introduced to their operation. None of the groups identified in this article are considered competition (they sell leads, and they don't come close to providing their own AI-drive software solutions).

Compliance: In an article introducing 'lead packs' for brokers, we wrote the following: "If you have used services such as Leadify, Karbn, Buy More Leads, BizLeads, Mortgage Magnet, Rowdy Digital, Woo Media, Biz Focused, Swell, 'James Davis', and a large array of others, you have objectively introduced non-compliance and what is usually illegal advertising into your business (and you have broken the law). You have exposed your operation to fines and litigation - simple as that. We object to the deliberate baiting used by these charlatans, and we object to the messaging used by some of these organisations that belittle and discourage more effective marketing solutions and strategies. More importantly, we object to the baiting practices used to deceive the consumer market - essentially turning the industry into a cesspit of finspam. Since they're all supporting practices that are contrary to very clear guidelines introduced in legislation and ASIC guidelines (with many of them operate fake and illegal standalone websites that purport to provide a financial service), and given that most of them ignore the overarching responsibilities of the Privacy Act (1988), we wrote a white-paper that encourages any ACL holder to ban these groups, and any others that don't introduce best-practice, ethical, and compliant digital products and solutions into a business. Illegal advertising is somewhat ubiquitous these days, and the boom of the last few years has exacerbated the problem with an influx of leadgen pretenders preying on general lack of industry awareness. There are legitimate agencies that introduce amazing and compliant experiences into broker businesses, and none of them sell leads. Compliance isn't managed by your business discriminately. Your digital compliance isn't any less important than other areas of your business, and the consequences are just as severe. We call out these organisations by way of our social archive (a mirror of our social feed) on a regular basis. Example adverts for those mentioned companies are shown in full. We have found that these groups make corrections once we call them out on their more blatant illegal practices, but all still operate experiences that are non-compliant."

Disclaimer: No part of this article should be considered complete, up-to-date, or accurate. None of our information constitutes legal advice, and it shouldn't be relied upon for an operational understanding of the subject matter. As with any marketing endeavour, you should seek independent legal guidance that relates to your specific circumstances.

Relevant Legislation

The applicable legislation that applies to financial advertising is significant. It is complex, confusing, extremely extensive, and often contradictory from one act to another. We've referenced the following Acts and Guides with support from our legal team, but it is by no means an exhausting list.

It's not feasible nor possibly to list all the relevant requirements imposed by legislation. However, both ASIC and other industry bodies have published their own guidelines.

Related: This article follows on from one on "Ethical and Legal Financial Advertising" and another on "The Problem With Pay Per Lead Services", and it supports a basic introduction to Facebook advertising. An older article details "The Real Cost of Pay Per Lead Services".

Do Lead Generation Companies Require an ACL?

Generally speaking, a digital agency does not require a Credit Licence unless they are engaging in activity that the National Credit Code applies. Section 29 of the National Consumer Credit Protection Act, 2009 details the credit activities that mandate licencing, with Section 8 detailing some of the activities that define credit assistance (many of the definitions relate to advice relating to a 'particular credit provider' - often implied by way of a promoted product, even if the product is unlawfully excluded from promotion). Certainly, no digital agency may purport to provide a credit service by way of a dedicated website or social presence that implies that a business is licenced. Regulation REG 25 of NCCPR provides various exemptions relating to licencing, and this takes shape by way of referrals, introductions, and by acting as an intermediary. This makes most leadgen companies illegal.

Are comparison websites legal? In short, yes, comparison websites are perfectly legal as long as adherence to applicable legislation is considered and enforced in design and delivery, although Example 10 from RG203 does note that these websites may also be providing credit assistance when websites claim to tailor results to a particular consumer (or provide any type of outcome or recommendation). If any advice, guidance, suggestion, recommendation, or direction is returned, then it is usually determined that credit assistance is provided. Not withstanding the legalities relating to false and deceptive advertising introduced shortly, the typical quiz-style form used by the majority of illegal lead generation groups introduce a form that seeks to gather financial information (itself subject to the Privacy Act, 1988), and the form returns a quantifiable result. In the majority of cases, these results are hard-coded to return a 'You Qualify' message regardless of the values provided by the consumer - clear finance guidance that is malfeasant in nature that is designed to deceive, and it amounts to false advertising, and a deliberate and manipulative baiting practice.

One of the challenges that the industry is yet to address in any serious manner is the fake broker websites maintained by the more deceptive groups. If a website looks, feels, presents, and claims to provide a financial services (often supported by a domain name indicating as such), then the consumer expects that business to backed by a duly licenced business. As noted by RG203.79, "a disclaimer will not, of itself, determine whether your conduct constitutes a particular kind of credit activity", particularly when the (comparison or other) website itself is shrouded in design intended to intentionally deceive (the disclaimer provided by the individuals we refer are often themselves deceptive - a small amount of text in the footer isn't enough to advise a customer of your positioning in the market). The 'quiz' often and erroneously employed by the industry further exacerbates the illegality and relegates the service into a clear class of non-compliance. These fake brokerages are not licenced, do not have the relevant dispute policies in place, are not members of the AFCA, they're not registered with ASIC, and they operate in a manner that would cause legitimate brokers serious legal consequences.

Fake Broker Website

  Pictured: An example of an illegal mortgage broker website. The address of 99 York Street, Sydney, CBD is probably fake since their office isn't listed in the building directory, nor do they provide a telephone number or valid privacy policy. Testimonials are confirmed as fake (RG 234.102 and general consumer law), and the girl used in the photograph was kind enough to confirm she has had no contact with this or any other similar company (illegal). As with all forms on their website, they provide fake 'qualification ' in order to garnish personal details (irrespective of details provided, the result is always the same). We counted 34 major breaches of legislation with this experience... and it's the same experience many are subjecting their clients by way of paid leads.

The illegal conduct of many lead generation companies leaves you exposed to serious fines, licence suspension, and litigation. Licensees are responsible for the conduct of their representation in all forms. Both the representative and the licensee are liable to the consumer in relation to any loss or damage suffered by the consumer as a result of the representative's conduct (Div 4 of Pt 2-3 of the National Credit Act).

A Mere Referral: Where the information given to the consumer constitutes a 'mere referral' to a credit licensee or representative, the adviser may be able to rely on an exemption if they also disclose any benefits, such as commissions, they may receive for giving the referral: see regulations 25(2), 25(2A) and 25(5) of the National Credit Regulations.

A Referral is bound by a rather complicated legislative framework, and the referral is often regulated to ensure best consumer outcomes. Referrals are generally classified as a 'downstream' (refer an audiovisual to licenced broker) or 'upstream' (refer a broker to a customer) referral (see 25(2) and 25(2A) of the National Credit Regulations for downstream referrals, and reg 25(5) for upstream referrals). The leadgen crowd generally rely on upstream referrals in that they provide brokers with details on how to contact interested consumers (and it is is managed in a way that is almost always non-compliant).

Upstream Referral Arrangements: Licensees who have written referral agreements have additional licence conditions that require the licensee to keep a register of referrers, and to only contact a consumer as a result of a referral within a specified period of time and in a specified way: see Regulation 9AB of the National Credit Regulations. The regulation makes some interesting points regarding the nature of a discussion that originates from a paid lead, including an introduction that states they purchased the lead and a fee was made for their details. In addition, you may only contact a referral within 10-days of those details being supplied; beyond this time the lead is nullified. RG 203.120 builds on this requirement (as required by the referrer or leadgen company) by stating the precise name of the licencee (rarely if ever complied with), and it requires a full disclosure. The Privacy Act, 1988 also requires full disclosure that the details will be forwarded to a specific individual before submission (this is also enforced via the National Privacy Principles)

The nature of a leadgen company providing a lead is not a referral when that customer was attracted by virtue of that company presenting itself as a brokerage, and then further providing invalid information for the purpose of baiting that individual into a funnel.

Financial Adviser ReferralExample 7, RG 203. A consumer asks their financial adviser for advice about their existing home loan. The financial adviser suggests that the home loan may not be the best product for the consumer that is available in the market at that time and suggests that the consumer look at some other mortgage products and, if necessary, consult a mortgage broker for advice. This is not credit assistance because the advice is generic in nature, and is not about specific credit products or providers. The provision of information about market interest rates and desirable features of home loans would not be credit assistance if the financial adviser does not relate these to specific products in the market. If it is apparent that a consumer has a home loan with an interest rate set well above market rates, then advising the consumer of this and recommending the consumer make sure they have the most suitable home loan by consulting a licensed credit service provider (such as a finance broker or comparison website) would not be credit assistance.

The nature of non-compliance from the leadgen crowd is mind-blowing, and the efforts of ACL holders to police the compliance infractions is as equally bewildering. There's a a few hundred examples in our social archive that starts to illustrate the scope of illegal nature of these services. Those organisations such as Leadify, BuyMoreLeads, BizLeads, Mortgage Magnet, Karbn, and a ton of other similar Facebook services, are exposing your business to activity that could see you lose your livelihood, and their representation online and deceptive (fake) advertising should be something you seek to extinguish from the industry.... and should never support.

Best Interest Duty. If you are a mortgage broker, you are required to act in the best interests of the consumer when providing credit assistance: s158LA and 158LE of the National Credit Act. Irrespective of the cited legislation, brokers are required to act in the best interests of their consumers, and prioritise their consumers’ interests when providing credit assistance (conflict priority rule). Exposing your clients to an illegal leadgen service is in no way the best way in which to start a relationship. Those that provide a fake financial service, return erroneous results for the purpose of eliciting information, and fail to disclose their lack of licencing or authority to provide guidance of any kind, don't operate in the Best Interest of a consumer. Their conduct is deplorable.

Legal Advertising

Having just discussed the disgusting nature in which lead generation groups conduct their illegal businesses, we should examine some of the guidelines dictating how your business should represent itself in advertising and promotion. As an introduction, this list of regulations is in absolutely no way exhaustive, and you should always consult the applicable legislation or legal advice before investing your marketing budget. We've generally referenced RG234 for brvity.

It should be noted that we've never seen a lead generation advert that was compliant. Never. The general practice to improve upon subscriptions is to bait a consumer into an experience with empty promises, and then expose them to an experience that provides fake qualification, before handing a lead over to another broker without disclosing the relationship. The entire process is transacted as if it were your business.

RG 234.67, Comparison Rates

An advertised comparison rate must be identified as a comparison rate and the comparison rate must not be less prominent in an advertisement than any interest rate. A comparison rate in an advertisement must be accompanied by a warning about the accuracy of the comparison rate and that the comparison rate is accurate only for the example given. RG 234.69 also states that "[a] comparison rate in an advertisement must be in accompanied by a warning about the accuracy of the comparison rate and that the comparison rate is accurate only for the example given in the advertisement" (s163, National Credit Code; reg 99, National Credit Regulations).

A number of requirements apply to how a comparison rate it displayed. It must not be smaller in size or faded in colour when compared to the interest rate, and it must be displayed in full without obfuscation near the interest rate. With the exception of banner advertising, a comparison disclaimer must be included as part of an advert copy whenever a rate is shown. Additionally, if the rate is available on the basis of criteria (such as LVR, introductory, or borrowing type) this condition must also be shown.

Comparison Rate compliance is the most basic of requirements... but it's often ignored. Where an opportunity exists to provide a brief disclaimer, one should be provided (does not apply to banner ads such as those on Google).

Examples:               

Most of those leadgen companies mentioned are shown above. We have taken screenshots of well over 1000 adverts that fail to meet this most basic compliance requirement.

Advertising on the basis of rates or an 'open-ended' promise is difficult because legislation then mandates more information in your disclaimer to qualify your own statements. Certainly, advertising on the basis of rates doesn't always attract rate-shoppers; rates are a 'lead-magnet' in and of themselves in that they create awareness... it's then up to you to bypass the rates discussion and introduce structure and wealth frameworks - both more important.

RG 234.51, Qualification

RG 234.51 states that "If a qualification is required, it must be published at the same time as the original message. Subsequent qualifying disclosures will not be effective as the misleading impression will already have been created", and it goes on to say in section .52 that "[q]ualifications should not be used to change the meaning of a headline statement. Some headline claims are so strong that any separate qualification will not correct any misleading impression".

An advertisement is a promise - that's the point. Your service provides the solution. The notion of "qualification" (per RG 234.91 - RG 234.100, a term that conveys a clear message) is akin to a promise, and any deception introduced to the initial awareness of your product or transactional experience that is false and/or deceptive advertising - both criminal offences. This raises the question of the legality of the 'quiz' used by many leadgen organisations (and many brokers) to 'qualify' a customer. Enough has been said in previous articles about the innefectiveness and deceptive nature of online qualification.... yet the majority of leadgen companies (with Leadify, BuyMyLeads, BizLeads, Mortgage Manget, Karbn, and others intentionally and deliberately lie to consumers by stating that they "qualify" for a benefit in order to bait them into providing personal details. Many that use a quiz will state that qualification is provided in "30 seconds" or "60 seconds" when promised results aren't returned immediately, nor are they returned at all. Instead, a note indicating that a broker will call them is returned. Financial results cannot be hidden behind a paywall of any kind, and this includes email (email is a type of currently when used online).

Qualification: The term 'qualify' is a tricky one, and the use of the term in context was one that had to go before our legal team. RG 234.91 states that "[c]are should be taken when using certain terms and phrases in an advertisement, particularly where the way those terms and phrases are used is not consistent with the ordinary meaning commonly recognised by consumers". The term 'qualify' in a financial setting is akin to a guarantee, and legislation prohibits use in this context, and there's a trove of information that prohibits its use with a generic 'quiz-style' form (which is how it's often used - particularly by the leadgen charlatans). As RG234.93 and countless pieces of consumer law states, you cannot create expectations that cannot be met. The term of "Conditionally Qualify" is often used by the leadgen crowd when the falsely return the final screen of a quiz, and the term is one that clearly has a place in the finance world, and it suggests that "mortgage application has gone through underwriting and the lender is expected to approve you for a home loan—as long as you meet certain conditions first" - in other words, it's undergone a more format analysis.

In terms of providing a "misleading message" in the context of financial advertising, the examples on our website show deliberate deception designed to mislead the consumer. Many will show an intermediate screen during the quiz that suggests they're 'checking results' when the single page showing the 'qualification' message is always the same. It's despicable.

Examples:                

The examples show a broad array of the quantitative fake messaging  returned back to a user, and others show the requirement to enter details to gain access to fake results after completion. You'll note in some forms, such as the advert from Re-Mortgage  (Mortgage Magnet - a grossly unethical service), returns a fake spinning wheel while 'calculating results' (nothing more than a delay applied to code). The message in that example - and all others (this example comes from Leadify ) - is always 'You Qualify'... and this is returned despite providing details that wouldn't qualify me for a Blockbuster membership.

Mortgage Magnet

  Pictured: An advert from Mortgage Magnet, a particularly offensive product. The quiz purports to check results to determine eligibility, but regardless of the details provided  (you can literally provide anything), it will 'qualify' you for the advertised service. This is false advertising that breaches a dozen regulations enforced on the industry, and others required by any business. This company has introduced clear non-compliance into various operations that are now required to disclose their participation in unethical and illegal marketing (our legal team provides complementary legal guidance to those of our clients that come to us from this and a few other products). The deception imposed on consumers by way of ads such as the pictured example is a despicable practice.

Leadify

  Pictured: An advert from Leadify. Not unlike the example above, we're always returned with a qualification message after form completion - blatantly illegal and manipulative baiting conduct. This company operates (non-compliant) websites that purport to provide a financial service - all illegal. A solar lead company at heart, this mob are potentially liable for millions in fines, and with a class action in the works, they may liable for payouts to former clients that were aware of the illegal nature of their operation.

Any claim, result, message, qualification message must be accurate, and it must be supported by appropriate disclaimer text if the benefit is discriminately applied. Numerous other pieces of legislation impose their own penalties for this style of fake advertising.

Roudy Media

  Pictured: The experience and results from 'Ask Charlie' (from Rowdy Digital) are particularly misleading, and the information generally rendered to these ads contravenes multiple pieces of legislation. Like other leadgen ads, the result will always return a 'qualification' message (in the pictured example, "You Are Eligible") regardless of the details provided.

It is not just leadgen agencies that use blatantly misleading advertising. A small group by the name of My Local Broker has some of the most deceptive ads in the industry, and they return the typical deceptive qualification message  despite details provided that would normally preclude eligibility. They really need to call us.

Mortgage brokers provide an amazing service that is of value to all home owners and investors. You don't have to lie.

RG178/RG234.156, Misleading Statements

Further to the above, "It is not necessary to show that consumers have actually been misled - the law prohibits conduct that is *likely* to mislead, and "if an advertisement is misleading, then it cannot be cured - a promoter cannot rely on an accurate disclosure document or contract to undo the effect of a misleading advertisement".

Consumers cannot be expected to study or revisit an advertisement - the most important consideration is the overall impression created by the advertisement when viewed for the first time.

Important from a marketing perspective, the guidelines go on to say that "qualifications of a headline claim must be clear and prominent - some headline claims are so strong that any separate qualification will not correct any misleading impression". RG RG 234.37 goes on to sya that "[a]n advertisement should not contain an open-ended promise about a benefit if it is likely that circumstances will change so that the promise will become misleading. It is important to remember that an advertisement may create a lasting impression in consumers' minds", and RG 234.47 states that "[t]he more that a qualification is required to balance the information contained in the headline claim, the more prominently placed the qualification should be. The headline claim must not itself be misleading".

Revvitalise

  Pictured: This advert was running around the 12th October 2021 (the time the screenshot was taken). The broader copy was itterly no-compliant, the headline was deceptive, and the rate (without the required comparison rate) is used to bait consumers into a funnel. The company behind the atrocity, Revvitalise, also claimed qualification regardless of supplied details in their form. This is typical conduct you're exposing your clients to by buying leads. This same company used unauthorised images from celebrities that we're connected with - the offending ads were removed after our intervention. The rate was not particularly competitive when the real cost of the rate was disclosed. The more limiting your claim, or the more unrealistic your promise, the more declaimers and conditions text is required to qualify your statements.

Physical Address: You will note that those in the comments determined that the location of the brokerage didn't exist. Despite the legislated requirement to disclose your physical address on financial websites, most leadgen companies will hide their address or provide fake details. The details for Leadify, BuyMoreLeads, BizLeads, Karbn, and others, are obfiscated on the WHOIS search, and we had to have contact with a broker in a couple of cases before we could trace the malfeasance to the offending company. Leadgen companies generally don't want you to know  how they're representing your brand.

Qualifications of a headline claim must be clear and prominent - some headline claims are so strong that any separate qualification will not correct any misleading impression

Silence can be misleading or deceptive when it is reasonable for a consumer to expect disclosure of important information - silence on important details can render a statement misleading, even though it is factually correct". Note also that "[t]he audience is not the audience that the promoter would like, but the audience the advertisement actually reaches".

Borrower First

  Pictured: The pictured advert from Borrower First is an example of deliberate unconscionable conduct. The lure into his model is interest rates less than 1% - promoted illegally without a comparison rate as 0.75%. The broker charged a $5500 upfront fee, and then charged a 15% fee on 'savings' (often over 60k). The product was leveraged in that the lower rate applied to a 60% LVR investment loan, and the owner-occupied loan was loaded up in a seriously significant way - there were no savings (in fact, in most cases it cost the consumer far, far more, especially since the broker fee of 15% of savings as capitalised into the loan). The business in question leans on the Banking Royal Commission to support their 'broker-free' product, and they claim over and over in multiple videos and marketing material that brokers have a conflict in their dealings because of the remuneration arrangements with banks. It is our opinion that since this particular business provides only a panel of products (from a single lender) that best suits his flawed and seriously inflated commission structure, and since his fees are tens of thousands more than any other broker performing exactly the same function, he is clearly introducing deliberate 'conflicted remuneration' into his own operation. Further, he is not providing holistic advice (and zero product comparisons), nor is he prioritising the best interest of the borrower (as required by BID legislation) in any respect, and his actions in no way represent responsible lending. He is using the Royal Commission to leverage his own model when the Commission was established to ensure this type of unconscionable conduct didn't exist. The problem with the previous statement is this: the business operator understands exactly what he's doing. The fee of $5500 was asked for before the nature of the product was revealed. The copy in this advert is ridiculously deceiving - he has the mordacity to criticise 'gimmicks' and 'hidden fees' when the entire product is laced with a very deliberate fraudulent intent. This advert is often the subject of our webinars and presentations.

Joust are probably one of the more reputable leadgen companies in the space, although many that have used the service have seen conversion rates of zero based on 100 leads. For a company that injects itself into the media environment, their advertising is quite poor, and it constantly tickles the thin green line of legality. This advert , for example, was used at a time when rates starting with a '1' simply weren't available. Further, their use of the 'Live Auction' tagline implies that the consumer is somehow elevated into a position of authority, and lenders will bid for their business. The reality is that their details are sold like any other and lenders don't bid for a file. We contacted a dozen major lenders to verify that they do not bid for business off this service. Their messaging is largely a lie.

Joust

  Pictured: Consumers aren't stupid - they will pick up on your deception if your ads are in fact deceiving.

Leadgen adverts provide a 'catch-all' message, in that they provide access to information that provides the greatest advantage, such as rates. If you've purchased leads, you're no doubt familiar with the scenerio where you're unable to respond to the claims made in the advert promise.

Joust

  Pictured: Specific messaging from leadgen companies in an advert are inherently deceiving because not all brokers have access to the rates, features, products, or benefits that are advertised.

The deception as described in the last couple of sections are not limited  to leadgen  crooks groups  - the malfeasance is literally everywhere.

RG 234.145: RG 234.145 states that "Online advertising can be advantageous for consumers because it can incorporate more engaging forms of media and can be interactive. Providing a facility for a consumer to access additional information (e.g. by ‘clicking through’ to another webpage) can be an effective way of providing further details and helping to engage the consumer. However, providing a facility for a consumer to access additional information cannot be used to correct a misleading overall impression in the advertisement". This means that your advert needs to provide the support necessary to make an informed next decision. Note: See RG 234.47−RG 234.53 for further guidance on the use of warnings, disclaimers, qualifications and fine print in advertisements.

Banner Advertising: Banner Advertising, as used on Google and other platforms (including some of our own), is limited in space. RG 234.147 states that "[t]he physical limitations of a particular medium are not a reason for producing an advertisement that might mislead". They go on to say that "If a banner advertisement on a webpage includes a strong headline claim about the potential returns available from a financial product, it should balance this with information about the risks. The stronger the headline claim, the more important it is for the risk information to be included in the banner advertisement itself and not included in a reference to another page where the consumer can find out information about the risks". If you're using Facebook, you always have the option of providing necessary exposure to applicable information and/or qualification criteria.

Significant penalties apply for false or misleading conduct or statements. Making statements that are materially false or materially misleading and are likely to induce consumers to apply for financial products in circumstances where the promoter does not care whether the statement is true or false, or knows, or ought reasonably to have known, that the statement is false (s1041E, Corporations Act), and inducing a person to deal in financial products by publishing a statement that is misleading, false or deceptive or by dishonestly concealing facts (s1041F, Corporations Act). Engaging in conduct in relation to a financial product or a financial service that is misleading or deceptive or is likely to mislead or deceive is detailed in s1041H of the Corporations Act, and engaging in conduct in relation to financial services that is misleading or deceptive or is likely to mislead or deceive is detailed in s12DA of the ASIC Act. Engaging in any ‘bait’ advertising is detailed in s12DG of the ASIC Act,and giving information to another person if the giver knows, or is reckless as to whether, the information or document is false in a material particular or materially misleading is also a serious offence, and is detailed in s33 of the National Credit Act. In assessing if an advert or experience derived from that advert should be the subject of prosecution, ASIC will assess the content, format, audience, and media, and the likely effect of the ad. Bottom line: any misleading conduct, deception, false claims, unqualified statement, or baiting must be avoided. Sadly, the conduct we've just described is a staple of the experience introduced by the clueless leadgen crowd.

RG178 5 - Currency of Advertisements

RG178 5 states that "Information in advertisements should be current (changes should be made in a week) . Advertisers should be vigilant to ensure that advertisements are withdrawn if they are no longer up-to-date. Particular care should be taken for advertisements using media that is likely to date quickly."

Financial Network Group

  Pictured: What's interesting about this advert from Financial Network Group is that they are an ethical brokerage that wouldn't intentionally deceive their audience. We have screenshots of various ads with rates ranging from 2.59 and higher when they were around 4-months out-of-date. Placing rates on your website requires vigilance - particularly when rates are changing so often. Ask yourself, is the rate central to my message? Are they required?

It is not acceptable to provide a disclaimer in comments stating that rates are effective to a date months prior. Again, what matters in a legal sense is the overall impression created by the advertisement when viewed for the first time. Legislation requires the advert to be current.

Joust

  Pictured: Ad advert from Joust that shows a comment stating that their published rate data may be invalid. Their claim of an average rate reduction of 1.74% is also a little dubious, and one that cannot be relied upon since it isn't accompanied by the criteria upon which the savings was judged.

Digital advertising provides options to respond immediately to changing rates, Government programs, consumer sentiment, and other trends. Ads should rarely remain the same unless they are 'general' in nature.

General Conduct

Section RG234.101 states that "Advertising should not falsely represent that a product or product issuer has an endorsement or approval that it does not actually have", although this statement seemingly applies mainly to Government endorsements. It stand to reason that no broker should use celebrity images or a likeness to promote their services when they're not licenced or approved to do so. Sadly, this is a common tactic  with the leadgen agencies . One particular advert from Revvitalise showed the puppet 'Agro', and as friends with the agent representing the brand we quickly put an end to that illegal conduct. We've confirmed via the Packer Trust that a more recent advert showing an image of Kerry Packer  was not approved. If a celebrity endorsement is used, that person must be a legitimate client of your company (RG 234.104).

Another company recently created an advert that featured the ABC logo  with a fake headline. By chance, I was at the ABC studios at the time, and talking to one of the people responsible for brand management. We called the broker, discussed the issue, and they quickly removed the offending image. This clear infringement was introduced by a digital company that should know better. This style of advert tickles RG 234.135 which states that "[a]dvertisements should not be presented as news programs or other programs", and this includes ads that provide a 'Breaking News' banner in the advert image, or presenting the image as a news screenshot.

A common 'tactic' that has no place in advertising, whether the advert originates from leadgen crooks or via your own organisation, and whether or not legislation explicitly prohibits it, is the suggestion that 'urgency ' is necessary in order to gain access to a product (when there is no product or urgency). Suggesting that limited slots are available each month (when you don't limit your availability), or assigning a stupid countdown  in order  to take advantage  of an offer without an expiry is just unethical (the linked image also makes a claim of "instant pre-approval" - a ridiculously dangerous and illegal claim considering it always returns as 'approved').

Generally speaking, if a quantitative statement is made, such as "Save XYZ", or "Average Savings of ABC", that message must be qualified by way of a disclaimer (the multiple references in this article supports the reasons as to why). As an example, consider this advert from Joust  that claims a total (average) reduction of 1.74%. The claim itself is somewhat dubious, but it's not supported by the method necessary to measure any real results since brokers don't report back to them (results cannot be measured against a flawed online questionnaire). This statement requires clear explanation when used.

Terms such as ‘independent’, ‘impartial’ or ‘unbiased’ may create a misleading impression about the relationship between a credit service provider and a third party (RG 234.98). These terms should not be used where the provider receives a commission or has some direct or indirect restriction on the service, or the credit licensee has a conflict of interest (s160B, National Credit Act). This is a tricky one because in light of Best Interests Duty, various organisations encourage the use of these terms.

Call center activity is fraught with a wrath of legal consequences if approached unethically, and the nature of offshore call centers is usually blatantly illegal. They ignore legislated requirements, provide fake information ("you may remember we spoke a few months ago"), offer rates that are unavailable, father personal information that isn't necessary, and and bait a consumer into a process. Many leadgen companies operate in this manner without informing you as such.

Record Keeping: Many brokers aren't even aware of the terrible advertising used to attract their business... but they must be. RG 234.149 (supported by various other acts, including the Privacy Act 1988), states that "[p]romoters and consumers should be able to keep a record of an advertisement, including any disclaimers or warnings. This will provide support should any future dispute arise about the advertisement". The copies of these ads form part of your compliance library, and it should be automated for ease.

At the very least, every broker should read RG234 in full to understand your most basic obligations. If you buy leads, you should measure the product against published guidelines. This article barely scratches the scratch.

Understanding Lead Generation

Not all lead generation is illegal (obviously), but the manner in which it's currently presented to the industry is misleading and illegal. There are countless ethical lead generation organisations that understand the trade, but none of them will ever sell you leads. If our product wasn't suitable for you we'd gladly recommend you to a company that won't introduce systems that'll compromise your livelihood. We've always encourage the market to first use our free website plugin. Our free product returns around 50X more value than any lead generation company, and it's an asset that is owned and managed by you. We provide advertising support for even our free products to ensure that you aren't exposed to compliance issues. We honestly don't understand why any broker would introduce such mediocre and illegal representation into their business when they have the capacity to do so much better themselves (in minutes). Many brokers outsource their advertising for fear or the compliance framework, yet they're often unaware that they're actually inviting illegal promotion into their operation.

Those business that claim to provide you with a self-hosted 'branded' solution are normally creating copy-and-paste experiences  that take seconds to create. You advertising must be unique, showcase your brand, speak to your positioning, and form a connection with the audience.

Because of this low barrier to entry into the marketing arena and the simplicity of the service they provide (and the perceived complexity), the industry attracts large numbers that don't have a particularly large amount of experience or expertise, and they rarely (if ever) have an understanding of the financial market (as evidenced by our screenshots). This lack of consideration and care results in the experiences we've described in this article. The ratio of incompetence in the digital field far exceeds that of any other industry.

What your business needs is funnels for your various services, and if these funnels don't exist your marketing success is seriously compromised. Certainly, if your website doesn't support your advertising funnel then you're destined to provide a mediocre solution. If your landing pages and other marketing assets are fragmented or, even worse, your landing pages are hosted on a third-party website, then your marketing (once again) won't return the results your business deserves.

Lead generation is simple. Seriously, ridiculously simple. If we were to recreate the experience that is sold to businesses such as yours as a product, we'd probably return a workable solution in a few minutes.

A Better Solution

We provide ethical and legal advertising. We provide higher returns, better consumer outcomes, and genuinely support business development and growth. Our approach is somewhat diametrically opposed to the nonsense peddled by those that provide illegal solutions, and we ensure that your brand is represented in a completely compliant manner. In the last few days we've introduced an alternative to pay-per-lead solutions (something we've never done, and will never do) by way of a program where the first block of leads are supported.

We're more than just Facebook. We provide a complete and holistic digital solution.

Conclusion

Compliance doesn't discriminate, and the law is reason free from ignorance. No broker should ever pay to have their business exposed to non-compliance, and no business should ever be complicit in what is deliberate deception when they engage with their potential clients - whether than experience originates from their own assets, or they're introduced by way of a contracting service. The reality is this: hundreds (or perhaps thousands) or brokers have introduced baiting, false advertising, deception, and an array of other consumer-facing offences into their business - often without their direct knowledge - and they're literally paying a premium to have their business exposed to litigation. The practice has to end. The finspan has to end.

We made an industry challenge available for a number of years. We challenged any leadgen group to compete against my daughter (she's now 9 but we started the challenge when she was 5). We'd give her 20-minutes to create a campaign, and the other group would have two hours. If my daughter didn't return more value we'd donate 10k to charity (we altered the criteria from time-to-time - it was usually a 30X ROI).

A New Industry Challenge: If any leadgen service can find an advert created by one of our clients (and scrutinised prior to publication), and they determine that advert to be non-compliant, we'll donate $100k to charity in your name. Good luck - you'll need it. The challenge applies to adverts created since we introduced Facebook and Google advertising to the Australian finance market until now. We absolutely dare you to do the same.

We're calling on aggregation groups and ACL holders to outright ban the purchasing of leads until a marketing compliance statement is received, and the marketing process itself is measured against legislation. The ubiquitous nature of the infractions introduced to businesses is obviously a legal imperative, but it's also a Best Interest Obligation. For the sake of the industry, and to ensure that we maintain a high level of consumer confidence, these rouge groups must be banned immediately. All those businesses that have used those mentioned leadgen groups should be offered appropriate legal guidance to ensure that they manage the exposure of their historical malfeasance.

  Featured Image: The Long Bay Women's Reformatory, c1909. The Long Bay Correctional Complex, commonly called Long Bay, is a correctional facility comprising a heritage-listed maximum and minimum security prison for males and females and a hospital to treat prisoners, psychiatric cases and remandees, located in Malabar, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. The State Reformatory for Women was opened in 1909 and the State Penitentiary for Men was opened beside it in 1914. Gallows were in operation at the complex from 1917 to 1939. The reformatory became part of the prison in the late 1950s, known as the Long Bay Penitentiary. After the Silverwater Women's Correctional Centre (formerly known as Mulawa) was opened in 1970, the women's prison was vacated and converted into a medium security prison for men. A prison seemed the most suitable image for this article. [ View Image ]

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