UK watchdog bans crypto ads

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned seven adverts promoting cryptocurrencies.

The advertisements included one from pizza chain Papa Johns which promoted “free bitcoin worth £10” and “Save £15 when you spend £30 or more & get £10 worth of Bitcoin from Luno!” on its website and Twitter.

The authority considered whether these ads were irresponsible because they “took advantage of consumers’ inexperience or credulity” and trivialised investment in crypto.

The company defended the promotion, stating that they had a long running association with cryptocurrency dating back to May 2010.

Papa John’s said that the ads made no comment on investing in Bitcoin and the promotion only offered a mechanism for customers to get free Bitcoin. They likened the promotion to a discount on products or a cashback offer, the only difference being that the saving was paid in Bitcoin.

But the ASA said that as part of the promotion a consumer would have to set up an account with Luno, a cryptocurrency exchange, which gave consumers the option to trade in cryptocurrencies either with the promotional amount of Bitcoin or their own money.

Crypto exchange platform Coinbase also had a paid-for Facebook ad banned, which included text stating “£5 in #Bitcoin in 2010 would be worth over £100,000 in January 2021. Don’t miss out on the next decade – get started on Coinbase today”.

Under the heading “coinbase”, a list of bullet points included text which stated “Simple and easy to use”, “Never been hacked” and “Trusted”. Under the heading “The Competition”, a list of bullet points included text which stated “Unregulated”. At the bottom of the post, text stated
“Buy bitcoin in 5 minutes with as little as £25”.

Coinbase said that the ad did not state or imply that cryptocurrencies were an investment. It added that consumers were made aware of the relevant risks through their user agreement and had the opportunity to discover more through the “Learn” pages on their website and through their “Earn” product. It explained that through those resources they made clear that cryptocurrencies were a high-risk product.

Other companies that saw their ads banned include CoinBurp, Exmo Exchange, Luno, Payward Ltf t/a Kraken, and eToro.

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