Financial watchdog tightens rules on cryptocurrency ads in Belgium

Financial watchdog tightens rules on cryptocurrency ads in Belgium
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The financial industry regulator FSMA has announced plans to tighten the rules on the advertising of cryptocurrencies. The plan containing some 20 measures will also improve protections for customers for mobile phone insurance and trading apps, De Tijd reports.

“There are at present no rules for the commercialisation of cryptocurrencies,” said FSMA chairman Jean-Paul Servais. Cryptocurrencies are considered to be a highly risky investment and are often advertised by well-known personalities such as football players and social media influencers.

The FSMA intends to work on better protections for potential investors, such as a mandatory announcement of the possible dangers of the investment vehicle – similar to warnings included by law in tobacco advertising.

In some cases, major campaigns will have to be presented to the FSMA for approval in advance of being presented to the public.

The basic law on financial industry supervision is 20 years old this year, and the authority considers evolutions in the market require an update of the rules. That also includes the sale of trading apps by banks and brokers – technology unheard of to the general public two decades ago. In some cases, the authority considers, investors are steered towards particular products, ignoring the duty of care the sellers have towards their customers.

Bitcoin bankers' oath

Another area of concern is what is known as the bankers’ oath, where dealers in financial products have a responsibility to act honestly and openly with clients and potential clients – a responsibility that has sometimes been ignored in the past.

The oath has only been in place since 2019, and is opposed by the financial industry representative organisation Febelfin, who find the rules disadvantage banks while offering preferential conditions for brokerage firms and other dealers.

Other rules in the package of 20 new measures include rules on insurance for mobile phones and other multimedia products; a standard contract for fire insurance, written in clear language and with only a limited number of exceptions to the coverage.

For the future, the authority will also tackle the question of access to banking services, in the face of the overall shrinkage of the number and location of banking branches available to the general public.

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