Every firm operating in or out of the UK has just been banned from selling products to consumers.
That’s after City regulator the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) announced new rules in an effort to stop honest Brits being ripped off by those taking advantage of how few people understand this new breed of “cryptocurrencies”.
The FCA’s Sheldon Mills said: “This ban reflects how seriously we view the potential harm to retail consumers in these products. Consumer protection is paramount here.
“Significant price volatility, combined with the inherent difficulties of valuing cryptoassets reliably, places retail consumers at a high risk of suffering losses from trading crypto-derivatives.
“We have evidence of this happening on a significant scale. The ban provides an appropriate level of protection.”
As an asset – albeit a digital one – the FCA can’t stop people buying Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies directly.
However, it absolutely CAN ban people selling products based on their prices that are regulated by firms acting in, or from, the UK.
As such it’s stopping the sale of derivatives and exchange traded notes (ETNs) referencing certain types of cryptoassets.
Broadly speaking – that’s any product sold to the public that lets you make or lose money based on a cryptocurrency’s current or future price.
The ban will come into effect on 6 January 2021.
It also means, after that date, you can be pretty sure anyone offering you that sort of product is a scammer.
“As the sale of derivatives and ETNs that reference certain types of cryptoassets to retail consumers is now banned, any firm offering these services to retail consumers is likely to be a scam,” the FCA said.
The FCA brought the ban in as it said these products are “ill-suited to retail consumers” as it’s not possible to reliably work out their value or the risks they involve.
More specifically there were problems thanks to the:
- inherent nature of the underlying assets, which means they have no reliable basis for valuation
- prevalence of market abuse and financial crime in the secondary market (eg cyber theft)
- extreme volatility in cryptoasset price movements
- inadequate understanding of cryptoassets by retail consumers
- lack of legitimate investment need for retail consumers to invest in these products
Put together the FCA said that meant consumers could “suffer harm from sudden and unexpected losses if they invest in these products”.
“The FCA estimates that retail consumers will save around £53m from the ban on these products,” the FCA said.
When the ban was proposed, Shaun Port, Nutmeg chief investment officer, said: “These assets have generated a lot of media hype and have even been the focus of social media platforms looking to branch out into investments and payments, but the reality is, it is very difficult for anyone to reliably assess the risks associated with them.
“There are issues with volatility, transparency, custody, fraud, liquidity and diversification. Not to mention that crypto-derivatives remain unregulated by the FCA.
“These products are ill-suited for retail consumers, and it is right that the regulator is considering steps to prevent the novelty of these products causing potential long-term harm to retail consumers.”