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The British Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned a bitcoin ad campaign put up across the London Underground network and on London buses by cryptocurrency exchange Luno. The UK advertising regulator says the ads are misleading and irresponsible.

‘Time to Buy Bitcoin’ Ads Banned in the UK

A bitcoin advertising campaign put up across London Underground and on buses has been banned by the U.K. Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). The ads contained an image of a bitcoin with the words “If you’re seeing bitcoin on a bus, it’s time to buy” or “If you’re seeing bitcoin on the Underground, it’s time to buy.” They were put up in February.

The ASA said it received four complaints. Three complainants “believed the ad failed to illustrate the risk of the investment” and “challenged whether it was misleading.” One complainant “challenged whether the ad took advantage of consumers’ inexperience or credulity,” the regulator detailed.

“We considered that consumers would interpret the statement ‘If you’re seeing bitcoin on the Underground, it’s time to buy’ as a reference to buying bitcoin as an investment,” the ASA affirmed, elaborating:

The ad appeared across the London Underground and London buses networks, which were untargeted media, and was therefore likely to have been seen by consumers who did not have extensive financial knowledge and experience of bitcoin, and would expect that the exchange of bitcoin would be regulated, with legal protection in place for investment activities.

UK Authority Bans 'Time to Buy' Bitcoin Ad for Being Misleading and Irresponsible
A bitcoin ad by Luno on the London Underground. Source: ASA

“We understood that neither Luno nor the bitcoin market in general was regulated within the UK, and therefore consumers could not seek recourse to services such as the Financial Services Compensation Scheme or the Financial Ombudsman Service,” the ASA noted, adding:

We therefore concluded that the ad was misleading.

The agency further said: “We considered that consumers would interpret the statement ‘it’s time to buy’ as a call to action and that the simplicity of the statement gave the impression that bitcoin investment was straightforward and accessible.”

However, the advertising regulator stated that “Bitcoin investment was complex, volatile, and could expose investors to losses and considered that stood in contrast to the impression given by the ad, that investment was simple and conventional.” The agency then detailed:

We concluded that the ad irresponsibly suggested that engaging in bitcoin investment through Luno was straightforward and easy, particularly given that the audience it addressed, the general public, were likely to be inexperienced in their understanding of cryptocurrencies, and was therefore in breach of the Code.

Luno Money Ltd., which put up the ads, told the ASA that “the ads would not appear again in the form complained about,” adding that “their future ads would feature an appropriate risk warning.”

What do you think about the ASA’s reasons for banning these bitcoin ads? Let us know in the comments section below.