Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) logo is seen displayed on a smartphone being held by silhouette hands

UK financial regulator warns unregistered firms to prepare for incoming digital asset promotion rules

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The FCA wrote to unregistered firms marketing digital assets in the U.K. on July 4, reminding them to comply with new digital asset promotion rules, which come into force on October 8. Failure to do so will be considered a criminal offense.

“From 8 October 2023 all firms marketing cryptoassets to UK consumers, including firms based overseas, must comply with the financial promotion regime,” the FCA’s letter read.

The FCA introduced the financial promotion regime on June 8. Under the new rules, any promotion of digital currency products or services needs to attach a ‘clear warning,’ notifying investors of the high-risk nature of the assets and potential losses; firms marketing digital assets to U.K. consumers need to introduce a 24-hour cooling-off period for first-time investors to allow them to consider, and possibly back out of, potentially unwise investments; and promotions can only be communicated via certain legal routes, set out by the FCA.

“The new rules mean crypto firms must ensure that people have the appropriate knowledge and experience to invest in crypto,” stated the FCA when announcing the regime in June.

Tuesday’s letter outlined the four lawful routes firms can take to communicate digital asset promotions in the U.K.:

Promotions not using one of these legal routes will be considered in breach of the new regime and thus “a criminal offence punishable by up to 2 years imprisonment, an unlimited fine, or both.”

The FCA said it expected most digital asset firms to go the route of registering with the FCA via the MLRs. However, it warned those considering this route to be prepared for a lengthy application process, a registration fee, and a potential wait of up to three months.

“All firms marketing to UK consumers… must get ready for this regime,” said Jayson Probin, crypto financial promotions lead at the FCA, in a statement announcing Tuesday’s regulator’s warning letter. He went on to praise the incoming promotion regime as “a critical change for the industry.”

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