UK advertising body upholds complaint against Crypto Bank Global

Maria Nikolova

The ASA has found that a newspaper ad by Crypto Bank Global is misleading.

The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld a complaint targeting a newspaper ad by Inside Access LLC t/a Crypto Bank Global, finding the ad was in breach of the CAP Code.

The ad in question appeared in the April 30, 2018 edition of a regional newspaper. Text in the ad stated “bitcoin to hit £30,000 in 2018! FREE CENTRAL LONDON SEMINAR … There are more millionaire’s being made from Bitcoin faster than anything in history. DON’T miss your chance AGAIN! Come to our FREE London Seminar and learn how you can make money in Bitcoin”.

The complaint by Barclays Corporate Banking challenged whether:

  • 1. the claim “bitcoin to hit £30,000 in 2018” was misleading; and
  • 2. the ad was misleading, because it did not make clear that bitcoin was an unregulated financial product.

In its ruling, made public earlier today, the ASA explains that Inside Access LLC acknowledged receipt of the complaint but did not provide a substantive response.

The ASA was concerned by Inside Access LLC t/a Crypto Bank Global’s lack of response and apparent disregard for the Code, which was a breach of the CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 1.7 (Unreasonable delay). The body reminded the firms of their responsibility to provide a substantive response to enquiries.

The ASA upheld the complaint. Elaborating on the reasons for its decision, the body said that whereas some consumers might have a degree of knowledge concerning cryptocurrencies, most were unlikely to be familiar with the workings, and therefore the associated risks of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. The ASA considered that those consumers would understand that the ad related to a seminar for a form of financial investment.

The ASA believes that consumers are likely to understand from the claims in the ad that the value of the cryptocurrency would significantly increase in 2018 (potentially reaching 1 Bitcoin to £30,000) and any investment was guaranteed to result in swift and substantial profit.

Although the ad was for a seminar about investment in Bitcoin, because the ASA understood that Crypto Bank Global offered services that facilitated investment in cryptocurrencies, the body considered that the potential risk of fluctuation in the value of Bitcoin to be material information that consumers required in order to make an informed decision about the seminar.

Because the ad implied that the value of Bitcoin would continue to rise significantly in 2018 and that rapid and substantial investment return would be guaranteed, and that the ad did not make clear that the value of Bitcoin could go down, as well as up, the ASA ruled that the ad was misleading.

On that point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising).

The ASA also voiced its concerns that because of the ad, consumers would expect the investment in Bitcoin to be regulated, and there would be legal protection in place for related investment activities. But Bitcoin is not currently regulated within the UK and consumers could not therefore seek recourse to services such as the Financial Services Compensation Scheme or the Financial Ombudsman Service.

For those reasons, the ASA found the fact that Bitcoin is currently unregulated, to be material information that consumers require in order to make informed decisions about the seminar, and therefore should have been made clear in the ad.

On that point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising) too.

The ASA ruled that the ad must not appear again in the form complained of. The body told Crypto Bank Global to ensure that future ads did not misleadingly imply that the value of Bitcoin, or any other cryptocurrencies, would rise significantly, and that fast and substantial investment returns would be guaranteed.

The ASA also instructed Crypto Bank Global to ensure that those ads also made clear that the value of Bitcoin, or any other cryptocurrencies, could go down as well as up, and that it was an unregulated financial product.

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