Warning: Trading crypto-asset related financial products through unlicensed entities

18 August 2021

  • ASIC urges Australians to be wary of investing in crypto-asset related financial products, such as options and futures, through unlicensed entities
  • By dealing with a licensed entity, you have certain investor protections
  • Check if the entity you are dealing with holds an Australian financial services (AFS) licence or an Australian market licence (AML)

Be wary of entities or platforms unlicensed to offer financial products

ASIC urges Australians to be wary of investing in crypto-asset related financial products and services where the provider does not hold an AFS licence or an AML.

An entity is required to be licensed by ASIC if they provide financial services (such as advising or dealing) in relation to financial products offered in Australia. Financial products include derivatives such as options, futures, leveraged tokens and binary options. The sale of binary options to retail clients was recently banned in Australia under an order that will remain in force for 18 months, after which it may be extended or made permanent.

ASIC has received a number of reports from Australians who have used unlicensed platforms to trade crypto-asset related financial products, such as options and futures, and have experienced significant losses due to excessive leverage, platform outages, or unfair liquidations.

ASIC understands that some unlicensed overseas platforms are taking, or have already taken, steps to prevent Australian clients from accessing these financial products. These steps include removing references and links, placing additional warnings and disclosures on the relevant webpages and apps, and introducing geographically based IP restrictions (geo-blocking). This prevents more Australian consumers from accessing financial products provided by the unlicensed platform.

Investor protections

Licensed entities are subject to a regulatory framework that aims to maintain the integrity, quality and reputation of the Australian financial system.

Dealing with licensed entities ensures that you have the benefit of specific obligations and investor protections imposed on these entities under the Corporations Act, that would not be applicable to an unlicensed provider.

If an entity is unlicensed, you are taking a risk that you will not be afforded with the investor protections required of licensed providers.

Check before investing

Check if the entity you are dealing with holds an AFSL or AML. Entities unlicensed by ASIC may also choose to register with an external dispute resolution scheme, such as the Australian Financial Complaints Authority, to enable investors to make a complaint.

ASIC’s Moneysmart webpage on cryptocurrencies and ICOs also provides useful information on investing in crypto-assets.

Listen to our podcast

Our recent podcast on crypto-assets for first-time investors helps you understand the crypto space before investing.

Last updated: 18/08/2021 12:00