UK bans sale of Bitcoin, Ethereum and XRP derivatives to retail


  • The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) prohibits retail consumers from trading in Bitcoin, Ethereum and XRP derivatives.
  • The ban on crypto-derivatives in the UK will come into force in early 2021.

The market for crypto-derivatives, e.g. Bitcoin, Ethereum, XRP and other cryptocurrencies has taken a severe hit. The UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has banned its trading for retail customers. In the official announcement, the regulator declared that the above products are “harmful” to consumers for 5 main reasons.

Firstly, the regulator stated that the underlying assets do not have a reliable basis to protect their value. Second, the FAC believes that abuse, illegal activities and financial crime are widespread in the secondary crypto market. In addition, the FAC argues that cryptocurrencies are extremely volatile and that end-users “do not have a sufficient understanding” of the underlying assets. Finally, the FCA claims that investing in derivatives of cryptocurrencies is “harmful” investment. The regulatory authority states:

These features mean retail consumers might suffer harm from sudden and unexpected losses if they invest in these products (…) which includes well-known tokens such as Bitcoin, Ether or Ripple (XRP). Specified investments are types of investment which are specified in legislation. Firms that carry out particular types of regulated activity in relation to those investments must be authorised by the FCA.

UK’s FCA targets Bitcoin, Ethereum and XRP derivatives

The UK regulator claims that the ban on crypto derivatives will save UK consumers around £53 million a year. In addition to the ban, the FCA has determined to prohibit the distribution and marketing of any derivatives to UK consumers. Specifically, the FCA mentions the following derivatives: options, futures, contracts for difference (CFDs), and exchange-traded notes (ETNs).

The measures apply to companies and firms “operating within or outside the United Kingdom”. The Executive Director of Strategy and Competition for the FCA, Sheldon Mills, stated:

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.

According to the FCA’s announcement, the prohibitive measures will take effect from 6 January 2021. The regulator has asked companies and firms that trade in crypto derivatives to stop their operations before this date. In the meantime, the regulator advises investors to “stay alert” for crypto-scams. From now on, they qualify all companies offering crypto derivatives products to retail consumers as “possible scams”.

In a separate document, the FCA also clarified that its measures will affect firms that issue or create crypto derivatives, firms that distribute them (brokers, financial advisors, and investment platforms), marketing firms that reference the referred derivatives, traders, consumers, and retail consumer organizations. With regard to consumers, the FCA states:

Retail consumers with existing holdings can remain invested following the prohibition, until they choose to disinvest. There is no time limit on this, and we do not require or expect firms to close out retail consumers’ positions unless consumers ask for this.





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