Case study: website compliance

While website designers regard your business’s website (and your Facebook or Twitter sites) as an attractive shopfront for your key products, regulators such as ASIC and the ACCC look at your website for indications of non-compliance.

Round 6 of the Financial Services Royal Commission hearings in September 2018 considered a case study involving the website of Allianz.

The Allianz case study concerned misleading and deceptive content that appeared on the travel insurance pages of Allianz’s website between 2012 and 2018.

In 2015, Allianz decided to update the look and feel of its website which promoted and enabled the sale of travel insurance.

Shortly before the updated website was made accessible to the public, an Allianz corporate solicitor identified issues with the updated website, including an absence of certain legally required disclaimers. Despite this, the website was launched. Over the coming weeks, the solicitor identified further issues with the content on the website, including misleading and deceptive statements. Despite these issues, Allianz did not take down the website.

In January 2016, Allianz decided to undertake a review of the website content. An external law firm quoted a cost of 25 to 30 thousand dollars to review the website content by mid-February 2016. Allianz declined to approve this expense.

As a result, the corporate solicitor spent two days a week working on the matter until the review was done. It took until November 2016 for Allianz to internally complete the review of the travel insurance content.

Allianz then decided to engage an external law firm to conduct another review of the web pages and purchase paths. That review identified 39 incorrect or misleading statements on the travel insurance pages of the website and found that many of those statements had been on the website since 2012.

But Allianz did not take down the travel insurance pages of its website until 6 June 2018 and disable the direct purchase path on 12 June 2018.

During the period from December 2015 to June 2018, Allianz issued more than two million travel insurance policies. Allianz was not able to say how many Allianz customers were affected by the misleading and deceptive content on Allianz’s website.

Counsel Assisting said it was open for the Commissioner to find misconduct by Allianz in relation to (i) misleading content on its website; (ii) failure to report significant breaches of s.912D of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) to ASIC; and (iii) failure to comply with paragraph 44 of Prudential Standard CPS 220.

In its submission, Allianz accepts the findings of misconduct.

Allianz also accepts that failing to remove the relevant pages of its website from public view while it investigated and determined how to fix them was conduct that fell below community standards and expectations.

The Commissioner will make his findings in his Final Report.

Do you have a process to monitor and review your website content?

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