Banking Royal Commission – write plainly to treat people fairly

The terms of reference of the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry states

All Australians have the right to be treated honestly and fairly in their dealings with banking, superannuation and financial services providers.

People are not treated fairly when information about financial products is written poorly. People cannot make good decisions when they cannot easily read and understand Financial Services Guides, contracts and other documents.

Difficult writing disadvantages people.

It would be useful for the commission to look at the role poor documentation plays in disadvantage. It is well within their remit as it considers:

Whether any conduct, practices, behaviour or business activities by financial services entities fall below community standards and expectations.

Corporations law says that Financial Services Guides and other documents must be written so that they are ‘clear, concise and effective’. Many documents in the financial services space fail to meet this basic requirement.

Service providers can develop documents with the best intent in the world; but if they judge suitability from their own perspective they will come up short. The suitability of a document can only truly be judged from the readers’ perspective.

The best way write any document about financial products is to write it in plain language. This way of writing presents information so that most readers can understand. It avoids jargon, big words and complex sentence structure. It simply talks about the topic in a straightforward manner.

PlainLanguagePro document certification can prove a document has been written plainly.

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