Many cryptocurrency customers don’t understand what they’re buying, but the resulting harm may be less than feared, suggests new research from the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
The regulator published its first-ever research today that examines consumer attitudes to cryptoassets, such as Bitcoin and Ether. The research found that many consumers don’t research the assets and are simply looking for a way to “get rich quick” with cryptocurrency.
Specifically, the FCA reports that 73% of consumers either don’t know what cryptocurrency is or can’t define it. It also found that many crypto owners overestimate their knowledge of cryptoassets, with many seeming to believe that the assets are tangible due to the language and imagery associated with cryptoassets, such as “mining” and “coin.”
“Some consumers are aware of risks, including price volatility,” the FCA said. “But some even say that risk is part of the attraction. Many don’t appear to have any strategy to sell their assets or a sense of what would motivate them to do so.”
As for why they decided to purchase cryptoassets in the first place, consumers perceived them as a “shortcut to easy money and wealth,” the FCA said. “They often cited influence from others, including social media, as motivation for investing.”
Yet, despite consumers’ poor understanding of cryptoassets, the FCA found that the overall harm may be less than previously thought, as the amounts invested are relatively small, and these purchases are typically funded by disposable income.
The research found that only 3% of the consumers surveyed had purchased cryptoassets, with Bitcoin representing about half of those purchases, and Ether accounting for another 34%. And about half of crypto buyers risk less than £200, it found.
Christopher Woolard, executive director of strategy and competition at the FCA, said the research “will help us ensure we are acting on evidence as we seek to protect consumers and market integrity.”
He also noted that most consumers don’t buy or use cryptoassets currently. “Whilst the research suggests some harm to individual cryptoasset users, it does not suggest a large impact on wider society,” he said.
“Nevertheless, cryptoassets are complex, volatile products — consumers investing in them should be prepared to lose all of their money,” he added.
The FCA is currently consulting on guidance about cryptoasset regulation, and later this year it plans to propose a ban on the sale of certain cryptoasset derivatives to retail investors. It also notes that the U.K. Treasury is considering expanding the FCA’s jurisdiction to bring more cryptoassets under regulatory oversight.