The corporate regulator this week published a consultation paper on its proposed annual advice fees, superannuation fee consent and ‘lack of independence’ disclosure changes, and invited advisers to provide feedback that may result in a reconsideration of the new legislation.
Consultation paper 329, which detailed the three major changes stemming from recommendations in the Hayne royal commission final report, encouraged firms and trustees to collect and analyse a range of “relevant and reliable consumer and transaction data”.
ASIC made it clear that the door was wide open for amendments to the plan.
“We intend to monitor implementation of the proposed requirements and test their impact on consumer outcomes,” the paper states. “We may reconsider the requirements in the proposed legislative instruments if we find they are resulting in adverse consumer outcomes.”
The paper gave some prescriptive advice about data submission, saying the methodology used should be “robust and independent” and include “relevant data”.
“For example, in the case of fee consents, relevant criteria may include metrics about fees, renewals and accounts,” it stated.
There was an acknowledgement in the paper of the problems that the new legislation – slated to be fast tracked for a July 1, 2020 implementation date – could cause. This included concern that making advisers estimate both previous and the following years’ fees in annual disclosure agreements could lead to pointless double-handling.
“Will this lead to unnecessary duplication given the consent will often be sought at the same time that an ongoing fee arrangement is being entered into or a fee disclosure statement is given?” the paper asks.
The proposal attempts to strike a balance between being prescriptive and providing flexibility for advisers and trustees. Prescriptive advice may promote more standardisation, it notes, but if it becomes too detailed it could lead to a flood of unnecessary breaches. The result is that the consultation paper skims the top of some areas, and goes granular where it sees fit.
The annual opt-in proposal, for example, is dealt with relatively loosely in its requirement that “only a brief explanation of why the fee recipient is seeking the consent” is required.
The lack of independence disclosure proposal, however, goes into finite detail about the relative font size and placement of the notification itself.
“This statement must appear in a box under a heading, in bold, titled ‘Not Independent’, on the first substantive page of the document,” it explains. “The statement must not be in a smaller font size than the predominant font size used in the document and must not be in a footnote.”
The regulator is accepting submissions on the consultation paper and draft legislative amendments up until April 7, giving advisers and trustees less than a month to collate data and file a response.
“ASIC welcomes views not only from industry but from all interested stakeholders,” Commissioner Danielle Press said in a release accompanying the paper. “This will help us understand any concerns that consumers, firms and trustees may have about our proposals.”