ASIC has made an interim stop order preventing Australian Unity from distributing the Select Income Fund (SIF) to retail clients. 

ASIC’s action was in response to concerns that Australian Unity failed to take reasonable steps likely to result in distribution conduct being consistent with its target market determination (TMD), which is under the design and distribution obligations (DDO). 

The regulator’s concerns related to Australian Unity’s reliance on a retail client questionnaire with significant flaws as a key step for compliance with its obligations. When applying for interests in the SIF, retail clients who have not received financial advice must respond to Australian Unity’s questionnaire. 

The questions and response options were based on and relied predominantly on complex consumer attributes set out in SIF’s TMD. The TMD is not intended to be a consumer-facing document and there was a high risk that retail clients would not understand the questionnaire, the regulator said.  

ASIC was also concerned the questionnaire’s effectiveness was undermined by: 

  • Giving prompts disclosing which response option places the retail client outside the target market; and 
  • Having follow up telephone communications to provide retail clients with a further opportunity to amend their response to fit within the target market. 

The interim order stops Australian Unity and other distributors from dealing in interests in giving a product disclosure statement for or providing general advice to retail clients recommending an investment in SIF. The order is valid for 21 days unless revoked earlier.