Bitcoin ad ‘time to buy’ banned in UK for being irresponsible

An advertisement for bitcoin on a bus in London’s West End.

Barry Lewis | In pictures | fake images

LONDON – The nation’s advertising regulator banned an ad campaign in the UK that told people “it’s time to buy” bitcoins as being irresponsible and misleading.

The posters for the cryptocurrency exchange service Luno, displayed on the London Underground network and on London buses this year, contained a cartoon image of a bitcoin with the words “If you are watching Bitcoin on the tube, it’s time to buy ”.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said Wednesday that the ads should not reappear in their current form and that they did not highlight the risks.

It comes a week after the bitcoin price collapsed by 30% in a single day, leaving many retail investors who had bought bitcoin significantly out of pocket. It also comes two weeks after the Governor of the Bank of England said that crypto investors should be prepared to lose all their money.

The watchdog said it received four complaints about the ad. Three of them were from people who believed the ad did not illustrate investment risk and accused it of misleading. One said the ad took advantage of the inexperience or gullibility of the consumer.

“We believe that consumers would interpret the statement ‘it’s time to buy’ as a call to action and that the simplicity of the statement gave the impression that investing in bitcoins was simple and accessible,” said the ASA.

The regulator added that “investing in bitcoins was complex, volatile and could expose investors to losses and considered that it contrasted with the impression that the advertisement gave, that the investment was simple and conventional.”

“For that reason, we came to the conclusion that the ad irresponsibly suggested that engaging in bitcoin investing through Luno was straightforward and straightforward,” he added.

He has told Luno to make sure his future marketing communications make it “clear enough that the value of investments in bitcoins was variable and could go up or down.” They should also highlight that Luno and the bitcoin market are not regulated.

Luno agreed not to reshare the ads in their current form and promised to ensure that future ads carry an appropriate risk warning, the ASA said.

Luno, who is part of a group that also owns the CoinDesk website, did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said in a statement that regulators are increasingly concerned about the risks that cryptocurrency investments may pose to consumers.

“Cryptocurrencies are very complex and very difficult to value, especially since the rules of the game can change very quickly,” he said.

Bitcoin volatility

Last week’s cryptocurrency selloff came after authorities in China and the US took steps to tighten regulation and tax compliance for cryptocurrencies. The sell-off was a major change for the cryptocurrency, which seemed to be gaining traction among major Wall Street banks and publicly traded companies.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who helped fuel bullish sentiment when his company announced in February that it had bought $ 1.5 billion worth of bitcoin, struck a blow earlier this month when he announced that the automaker had suspended purchases. of vehicles using cryptocurrency for environmental concerns.

The price of Bitcoin surged this week after Musk said that he had been talking to Bitcoin miners about how to make the cryptocurrency more environmentally friendly.

The bitcoin price at 3:49 am ET was $ 40,445.17 and is up about 4% in the last 24 hours, according to CoinDesk.

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