Australia's corporate regulator has promised to take action after real estate agents were found asking hard-done-by tenants to access their superannuation.
In a letter to the real estate industry the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) said media reports and social media commentary outlining this conduct is of "significant concern" to the regulator.
As highlighted by ASIC, financial advice of this nature must only be provided by licensed and qualified financial advisers; not by real estate agents.
"Tenants facing financial difficulty need sound financial guidance and potentially debt counselling," says ASIC.
"Specifically pointing them to and recommending them to consider the specific possibility of accessing superannuation islikely to amount to a breach of the Act."
Under the Corporations Act providing unlicensed financial advice attracts a penalty of a maximum five years imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $126,000. For corporations this is a fine of up to $1,260 million.
"We will be raising these concerns with the relevant state regulatory bodies and will be writing directly to firms where it is alleged or brought to our attention that they have breached the law," says ASIC.
"ASIC intends to monitor this situation closely, and if contraventions of the licensing requirements of the Corporations Act are found, ASIC will not hesitate to act swiftly to protect vulnerable consumers."
Last month the Australian Tax Office announced it will allow individuals affected by Covid-19 to access their superannuation early, up to $10,000 in 2019-2020 and a further $10,000 in 2020-2021.
Business News Australia