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FMA steps in after false ads claiming health insurance is needed for Covid-19 posted online

The Financial Markets Authority (FMA) has stepped in after false advertisements were posted online claiming that people in New Zealand will need health insurance to cover Covid-19 testing or treatment.

A file image of a hospital ward. Source: Pexels

Two advertorials, written in the style of new articles, were posted on WeChat, but in a release today the FMA said both were removed after a concerned party reported them to the FMA.

The posts warned that people could face bills of up to NZ$250,000 and recommended that people living in New Zealand get health insurance to avoid the risk of financial hardship.

In New Zealand, emergency treatment and testing for Covid-19 is free, as New Zealand has a public health system.

Citizenship and immigration status are not relevant, nor is a person's length of stay in the country.

FMA Director of Regulation Liam Mason said the FMA is now following up with the firm that posted the advertorial.

"All advisers, in particular registered financial advisers, need to remember their fair-dealing obligations under the Financial Markets Conduct Act," Mr Mason said.

"These provisions prohibit misleading or deceptive conduct, including false or misleading advertisements.

"We continue to talk with financial service providers to ensure they devote their efforts to helping their customers through this incredibly difficult period.

"We want providers to engage openly and honestly with customers in all interactions.

"The FMA will not tolerate behaviour from firms or individuals that appears to exploit the COVID-19 disruption, or conduct that preys on people who may be feeling additional stress at this time.

"We will take any steps necessary to stop this kind of behaviour and hold those responsible to account."