The UK’s advertising watchdog has raised the alarm over crypto banning ads by Coinbase, Kraken and eToro in a series of scathing judgements.
The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) labelled crypto adverts a “red-alert priority issue” after banning adverts by PapaJohns, Coinbase, eToro, Kraken and Luno from reappearing. The regulator said that the decisions had been taken following proactive monitoring of crypto asset ads this year with the rulings expected to shape guidance around advertising digital assets in 2022.
Miles Lockwood, the director of complaints and investigations at the ASA said “crypto assets are a red-alert priority issue for us,” and confirmed that “rulings published today and over the next few weeks will shape follow-up enforcement work in the new year to bring all cryptoassets ads into line with our expectations and will form the basis of updated guidance.”
Chief amongst the ASA’s gripes with crypto adverts is that they failed to communicate the risks of investing in digital assets to customers, instead emphasising ease of use and purchase.
Coinbase was reprimanded over a paid-for Facebook ad, seen on 27 July 2021, which stated “£5 in #Bitcoin in 2010 would be worth over £100,000 in January 2021.” The advert will not be allowed to appear again unless it makes it clear that the price of crypto is variable, the regulator said.
ASA also took issue with adverts from the pizza restaurant Papa Johns, the first place where bitcoin was used to make a physical purchase, which offered customers who spent £30 or more £10 of free BTC as part of a promotion. Papa Johns defended the advert comparing it to a cashback scheme, however the company was criticised for trivialising crypto investment.
“Consumers need to know about the risks of investing in cryptoassets and companies should make sure that their ads aren’t misleading or socially irresponsible by taking advantage of consumers’ lack of awareness around these complex and volatile products,” said Lockwood. “We won’t hesitate to take action against ads that break our rules. We encourage anyone with any concerns about ads they’ve seen to get in touch.”
Earlier this week the UK government’s Online Safety Bill came under fire from a committee of MPs and Lords who called for tech giants and social networking platforms to bear responsibility for fraudulent crypto ads.