ASIC concerned over misleading use of past performance information in ads

ASIC has cautioned investment funds against the misleading use of past performance information in advertising and promotional aterial.

Today’s warning follows concerns by ASIC that an advertisement for an investment product offered by BT Financial Group (BT) included past performance information which was potentially misleading. The advertisement’s headline asked the rhetorical question: ‘Past performance isn’t a reliable indicator of future performance, is it?’ followed by past performance information showing strong returns.

In ASIC’s view, the advertisement was misleading because it encouraged consumers to believe that the past performance of the product was a reliable indicator of future performance.

‘Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance. An undue emphasis on past returns can lead to consumers having unrealistic expectations and making poor investment decisions’, ASIC’s Executive Director of Consumer Protection, Mr Greg Tanzer said.

Mr Tanzer said ASIC was particularly concerned that the BT advertisement reflected a flippant approach to guidelines detailed in its Guide on the Use of Past Performance in Promotional Material.

‘ASIC expects that industry will take a responsible approach to its marketing activities. If you’re going to use past performance information in your advertising, you must do it responsibly and without being misleading’, he said.

BT has agreed to stop its existing advertising and refrain from using similar wording in future advertisements. BT is now also implementing measures to improve compliance in its advertising and other communications.

In 2003, ASIC commissioned a review of Australian, UK, and US academic studies into the correlation of past performance with future performance. The review concluded that good past performance is, at best, a weak and unreliable predictor of future good performance over the medium to long term.

From ASIC media release

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