Misleading ads cost investment advice firm

A Queensland based property investment advice firm has been hit with a hefty fine after advertisements drew the ire of the Australian Securities & Investment Commission (ASIC).

Kovacs Property Group Pty Ltd was hit with an infringement notice from ASIC that carried a $10,800 penalty after the regulator claimed online advertisements from the company were potentially misleading.

According to ASIC, the potentially misleading advertisements appeared on www.positivefuture.com.au in late 2015 and early 2016 and promoted an investment opportunity called the Investment Samaritan Offer.

ASIC had concerns over the advertisements given that they emphasised the safety of the investment in terms of the return of capital and sustainable quarterly returns, but did not explain any of the key risks that came with investing in the Investment Samaritan Offer.

In particular, ASIC was concerned that the advertisements did not explain that the funds invested are loaned to Investment Samaritan Pty Ltd, or of the risk that this company could default on the loan.

Investment Samaritan Pty Ltd is reliant on a US-based companies identifying and sourcing distressed US credit card issuers and collecting credit card debts from US based consumers in order to meet its obligations to investors under the loan.

ASIC commissioner Greg Tanzer said the regulator was committed to ensuring the public receives the full details of any investment opportunity offered to them.

“Advertisements for financial products and credit products should give a balanced message about the returns, features, benefits and risks associated with a product,” Tanzer said.

“ASIC will take action to address misleading or inaccurate advertising of investment opportunities to ensure investors are informed in their decision-making,” he said.

Kovacs Property Group Pty Ltd revised the website once approached by ASIC and has co-operated to address ASIC's concerns.

The payment of an infringement notice is not an admission of a contravention of the ASIC Act consumer protection provisions. ASIC can issue an infringement notice where it has reasonable grounds to believe a person has contravened certain consumer protection laws.

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