Cryptocurrency ads banned in ‘red alert’ focus on concerns for consumers

An ad for trading plaftorm eToro. (ASA/PA)

Cryptocurrency ads for seven platforms and retailers have been banned amid “red alert” concerns about consumer awareness of the “complex and volatile” products.

Ads from trading platforms eToro and Coinburp have been banned for irresponsibly taking advantage of consumers’ inexperience and for failing to illustrate the risk of the investment, as have ads for cryptocurrency exchange firms Payward, Exmo Exchange, Luno Money and Coinbase Europe.

A Papa John’s pizza chain website promotion and a Twitter post promoting cryptocurrency were banned for the same reasons.

The Papa John’s website ad, seen in May, stated “Free Bitcoin worth £10” and “Save £15 when you spend £30 or more and get £10 worth of Bitcoin from Luno!”

A tweet on the Papa John’s Twitter page, posted on May 14, stated: “We’ve partnered with @LunoGlobal to offer FREE Bitcoin worth £10 for every pizza bought via our ‘£15 off when you spend £30’” and “Turn Pizza into £10 worth of Bitcoin.”

The Papa John’s ad banned by the ASA Credit: ASA/PA

Papa John’s said they had a long-running association with cryptocurrency, which dated back to May 2010 when it was believed that Bitcoin had been first used to buy two Papa John’s pizzas.

The chain acknowledged that some customers would have more knowledge of cryptocurrency than others but, due to their historic connection to Bitcoin, they believed their partnership with Luno would not be seen as unusual and the collaboration alone did not make any comment on cryptocurrency or its suitability for investment.

However, the Advertising Standards Authority said the use of pizza to promote a cryptocurrency account encouraged consumers to engage in a high-risk investment without consideration and trivialised what was a serious and potentially costly financial decision, especially in the context of the intended audience who were likely to have limited knowledge of cryptocurrency.

The ASA said the seven bans followed proactive monitoring into crypto-asset ads and form part of a wider project that will eventually shape specific guidance around advertising these products in 2022.

The ASA said it would continue to review cryptoasset ads over the next few months for not just for cryptocurrencies but also for NFTs (non-fungible tokens), and fan tokens, which would contribute to future enforcement and guidance for advertisers.

ASA director of complaints and investigations Miles Lockwood said: “Cryptoassets are a red-alert priority issue for us, so we’re conducting proactive monitoring and interventions where we find issues.

“Our 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.

“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.

“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.”