UK Watchdog Bans 'Socially Irresponsible' Bitcoin Ad

The complainant said the ad targeted retirees and misled the public over the risks of bitcoin investment.

Mar 17, 2021 at 12:41 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 14, 2021 at 12:28 p.m. UTC

The U.K. Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned a bitcoin advertisement from cryptocurrency exchange Coinfloor, labelling it “socially irresponsible.”

According to an announcement by the ASA on Wednesday, the advert in the Northamptonshire Telegraph on Dec. 3 featured an elderly woman who encouraged the public to use Coinfloor to help build a bitcoin savings portfolio.

The woman, described as being 63 years old, said: "Today there is no point keeping [money] in the bank – the interest rates are insulting […] That is why when I received my pension, I put a third of it into gold, a third of it into silver and the remainder into bitcoin…"

The ASA said the ad was, “socially irresponsible because it suggested that purchasing bitcoin was a good or secure way to invest one’s savings or pension.”

The regulator added the complainant who challenged the advertisement said the ad targeted retirees and was “misleading” because it didn't make clear the risks associated with investing in the cryptocurrency.

In a response to the complaint, Coinfloor said there had been a disclaimer in small print toward the bottom of the ad that stated, “Investing in cryptocurrencies involves significant risk and can result in the loss of your invested capital. You should not invest more than you can afford to lose”.

"We considered the disclaimer was insufficient to counteract the overall message of the ad that buying bitcoin represented a secure investment, and given the font size and its positioning it had not been presented clearly or prominently enough to ensure consumers were made aware of the risk of loss of capital," said the ASA.

Coinfloor also claimed the elderly woman featured was a customer who had expressed her own views on bitcoin investing in the ad, which "did not represent Coinfloor’s view."

The ASA upheld the complaint, saying the ad was "misleading" because it didn't make "sufficiently clear" that bitcoin prices could go down as well as up or that the bitcoin market is unregulated in the U.K., adding it was therefore in breach of advertising rules.

The ad can no longer be used by Coinfloor. The firm was warned it needs to make clear the risks of bitcoin investment in future ads.

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