BitMEX, the crypto derivatives exchange platform, has faced complaints regarding an ad. The British Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has now upheld the complaints, barring the business from using the ad again.
The company faced six complaints regarding an advert posted on January 3 2019, ten years after the initial block was posted on the Bitcoin blockchain. Four of these accused the ad of being misleading. The other two believed the advert failed to convey the risk of investing in cryptocurrencies.
The key issue with the ad was a graph which showed how much Bitcoin’s value had changed over time against the dollar.
BitMEX argued that that the purpose of the graph was to inform and not to sell products. It claimed that while the platform “offered leveraged contracts bought and sold in Bitcoin,” it did not sell the cryptocurrency, according to ASA’s final decision. BitMEX continued that even though its products “indirectly exposed investors to Bitcoin price fluctuation, an investor’s gains or losses were not directly dependent on rises or falls in the value of Bitcoin.” The company added that it could give investors access to crypto financial derivatives markets to facilitate their trading with each other on a peer-to-peer basis” and that it was impossible to buy or sell Bitcoin on the platform.
In its new decision, ASA argued that the graph was created in such a way that even “such scales were a valid and useful way of presenting data”. Hence, the authority “considered that at least some specialist knowledge of that type of scale would be needed to interpret the graph and that, in the absence of clear explanatory information, the graph was unlikely to be familiar or readily understandable to the national newspaper audience to whom the ad was directed.”
Without that specialist knowledge, ASA feared that people would be likely to be misled by the graph as Bitcoin’s value has fluctuated.
BitMEX also stated that it had done enough to warn people about the risks associated with Bitcoin with phrases like it still being “very much an experiment”, that “the road ahead will be challenging” or “price volatility” mitigated the overwhelming impression about Bitcoin’s value created by the graph.
ASA opted against this argument as the full text stated, “Despite price volatility and how entirely bonkers the system seems, the Bitcoin protocol appears robust. And although the road ahead will be challenging, there’s a reason to believe Bitcoin’s still got a chance at glory”, interpreting it as a promotion of Bitcoin’s merits and did very little to warn consumers of any risks.
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