The Sydney brokerages that published the misleading advertising are Ace Mortgage Market (located in Parramatta), Aus Realty Group (located in Hurstville), Apex Finance & Mortgage (located in Burwood) and Trans Australia Mortgage Finance (located in Burwood and Chatswood).
ASIC said the range of concerns contained in the advertisements targeting Chinese-speaking home buyers included representations in Chinese such as ‘lowest fixed rate’ and ‘no proof of income’, "which may be false and misleading statements, or indicate a breach of the responsible lending obligations".
The regulator said some of the advertisements also had a heavy reliance on disclaimers, such as ‘terms and conditions apply’, that did not explain qualifying terms and conditions.
"Also, promoters tended to advertise benefits in Chinese language, but stated the disclaimers and qualifications in English, when the advertising was aimed at non-English-speaking consumers," ASIC said.
Other concerns with the advertisements included failure to disclose the required comparison rate when quoting an annual percentage interest rate, failure to disclose the required warning about the accuracy of the comparison rates, and failure by their promoters to regularly review the advertisements to ensure accuracy and compliance with the law.
ASIC deputy chair Peter Kell emphasised that The Australian Consumer Law applies to all advertising, including advertising in foreign languages.
"Consumers who are unable to understand written English are likely to be more reliant on advertising in their native language when in need of a financial product," he said.
"Promoters should ensure that their advertising is up to date and complies with the law. If the majority of the advertising is in a foreign language, the warnings, disclaimers or qualifications should be prominently disclosed in the same advertising and explained in that same language."