DR ANDREW KNOX AGAINST STUFF
Case Number: 3430
Council Meeting: 25 September 2023
Decision: No Grounds to Proceed
Accuracy, Fairness and Balance
Comment and Fact
- Stuff published an article on July 18, 2023, headlined: Here’s the potential impact on KiwiSaver of withdrawing for a bond.
- The story reported the impact on KiwiSaver accounts if people withdrew funds to pay for rental bonds, an idea proposed by the National Party. An account manager said a person withdrawing $1000 at age 22 and never paying it back could miss out on $9000 by the age of 65. The account manager was further reported as giving a precise figure of $8882.27.
- Dr Andrew Knox complained the item breached Media Council Principles (1) Accuracy, Fairness and Balance and (4) Comment and Fact.
- He said the potential amounts listed in the article were extremely dependent on future unpredictable growth of KiwiSaver funds and the statements made were based on assumptions, not facts.
- Figures down to two decimal places were potentially misleading and any fund manager making such an estimate that could be wildly wrong could be in breach of financial advice law.
- “Given the unpredictability of decades of financial market outcomes I do not believe that any actual numbers should have been used in this reporting.”
- Dr Knox questioned whether this was politically neutral reporting in the leadup to a general election and was concerned the article was not labelled as opinion. He was also concerned it might be considered financial advice.
- Stuff responded that the story made it clear that it referred to modelling done by a KiwiSaver provider and noted the Financial Markets Authority also used assumptions to forecast potential returns over long periods of time.
- Stuff did not believe anyone would think that $8882.27 was a definite number that would apply to everyone. Even the headline referred to potential impact. The article was designed to show how significant a relatively small withdrawal could be, particularly early in a person’s investing life.
- It also said the Financial Markets Conduct Act identified journalists as an ancillary service and they were not regarded as providing regulated financial advice.
- The Media Council notes that the article provided a useful model and language was used cautiously.
- It may have been a little loose to report estimates down to the decimal point when they were long term forecasts and rounding might have been expected. But the calculations that were carried out would have produced results down to a decimal point, and given that the figures were plainly calculated estimates, no-one would have been misled.
- The reported figures were plainly an estimate, with phrases alerting people to the nature of the calculations. Expert comment and analysis on election policies like this can be useful and in the public interest, particularly in the lead up to an election.
- The article clearly reported a KiwiSaver providers’ opinion, and, like any other story reporting people’s comments, it did not need to be specifically labelled as “opinion”.
- Decision: There were insufficient grounds to proceed