Consumers Confusing General and Personal Advice

ASIC has released research demonstrating consumers have difficulty in understanding the difference between general and personal advice, which it says exposes them to a greater risk of poor financial decisions.

ASIC Deputy Chair, Karen Chester

The regulator says its report, ‘Financial advice: Mind the gap‘, identifies substantial gaps in consumer comprehension and understanding of general and personal financial advice.

Raising concerns over these findings, ASIC Deputy Chair, Karen Chester, noted, “This disturbing gap in understanding whether the advice they are getting is personal or not means many consumers are under the false premise their interests are being prioritised, when no such protection exists.”

Chester added that the survey not only revealed consumers are not familiar with the concepts of general and personal advice, but only 53 per cent of those surveyed correctly identified ‘general’ advice: “And even when provided the general advice warning, nearly 40 per cent of those surveyed wrongly believed the adviser had an obligation to take their personal circumstances into account,” she said.

Chester added that the report highlights the importance of consumer awareness and understanding of the distinction between personal and general advice, in which FoFA protections only apply when personal advice is provided. She said these include obligations for advisers to:

  • Act in their client’s best interests
  • Provide advice that is appropriate to their client’s personal circumstances
  • Prioritise their client’s interests

“These obligations do not apply when general advice is provided,” said Chester.

…general advice…is inevitably of limited use

In what may be considered encouraging news for the advice sector, ASIC says it anticipates the need for financial advice to grow, reflecting an ageing population and many financial products, especially retirement products, becoming more complex. It considers that much of the advice is likely to be general advice, and while appropriate in some circumstances, is inevitably of limited use.

In acknowledging that “…consumer confusion about what is personal and general advice needs to be addressed,” ASIC notes this report is the first stage in its broader research project into consumer experiences with, and perceptions of, the financial advice sector.

  • Ken

    Really ??? talk about playing catch-up ! We have been telling them just that for years now !
    Call it general information and personal advice. Might help but as people hear what they want to hear “sounds easy”better still “heaps cheaper “? then go and complain when it’s not what they thought. If something is so much cheaper people need to ask what is it I’m not getting? Not accept it like sheep to the slaughter!
    Or here’s a novel idea do away with direct sales no confusion now ?? there’s s new idea that has a “moth in hell’s” chance of ever happening
    The mess they have created just keeps getting bigger

  • Old Risky

    Welcome to the complex world of life insurance sales, Ms Chester. In our world you will need flexibility, not the rigid neo-con theories you produced at the Productivity Commission, nor the rampant ideology against risk commissions at ASIC. GENERAL ADVICE has been an ASIC favourite for years, despite all the warnings from personal risk advisers who review the evidence every day. ASIC has allowed the banks to flog rubbish under GENERAL ADVICE-why? ASIC knew of Freedom Insurance, but did not act, and may have approved the scripts being used in Freedom call centres.. ASIC lets industry funds offer intra-fund advice on GENERAL ADVICE! Is that because the banks, the industry funds and Freedom claimed to pay “salaries”, not commissions. The answer, my dear Ms Chester, is to BAN GENERAL ADVICE !!!

  • Easy Tiger

    Just a bunch of ignorant Public Servants sitting in a four wall building and blinded by the real world…….