The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) appeared before the standing committee on economics on Tuesday afternoon.
The session was to review its 2021 annual report, with the committee asking ASIC for its views on topics ranging from greenwashing to the Optus breach to crypto regulation.
Corporate environmental claims
Similar to comments made by both the ACCC and APRA earlier in the day, ASIC likewise expressed its own concerns about how corporate sustainability claims were misleading consumers.
The “parallel train tracks” of greenwashing were described by ASIC being a lack of integrity from corporations looking into their sustainable practices and then that lack of integrity leading to consumers being misinformed.
ASIC added it had a number of ongoing investigations at the early stage looking into corporate claims of sustainability, as well as being in touch with international regulators looking into the strengths and weaknesses of carbon credits.
“We’ve been calling out greenwashing for a while,” ASIC deputy chair Karen Chester commented.
When asked about who should be responsible for looking into the credibility of carbon credits, ASIC said it was a policy issue.
Industries in ASIC’s eyesight
Some of the areas of concern expressed by ASIC were Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) products, credit cards, crypto and superannuation.
ASIC said it was looking to “shine a light” on the “inherent risk” of crypto assets, including taking action when appropriate.
The commission added it was supportive of more regulation of the crypto market, as also flagged by APRA.
On BNPL, ASIC said it was focused on working with BNPL companies to bring their attention to when harm is caused.
When asked about unfinished business, ASIC said it would be looking at reviewing unfair trading practices.
Finfluencers and social media
Brought up a couple of times during the session, ASIC expressed concerns about “finfluencers” — or financial influencers.
Of concern for ASIC in this space was unlicensed individuals giving people on social media financial advice.
ASIC noted social media was of particular concern, as misleading or incorrect information was easily amplified through those channels.
The commission thought some finfluencers were not intentionally misleading or acting with malice but still expressed the firm view it was an area that needed regulation.
The priority for ASIC was the protection of the consumer, with ASIC deputy chair Sarah Court saying the Optus breach meant its interest in scams had “intensified” the regulator’s interest.
In relation to the breach, the ASIC said its focus was on ensuring consumers were protected and government messaging was consistent.
At a lighter point during the session, ASIC chief operation officer Warren Day admitted to being distracted when Keith Wolahann’s dog appeared in his remote video feed.
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