India’s ad watchdog issues guidelines for crypto advertisements

The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), the country’s self-regulatory organization of the advertising industry, has issued guidelines for crypto ads following a spate of such ads in recent months.

Effective April 1, these guidelines require crypto companies to include this disclaimer in all of their ads: “Crypto products and NFTs are unregulated and can be highly risky. There may be no regulatory recourse for any loss from such transactions.”

The disclaimer should be “prominent and unmissable” by an average consumer, according to the ASCI. For instance, in a print ad, the disclaimer should occupy at least 1/5th of the ad space at the bottom and be written in an easy-to-read font against a plain background.

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In a video ad, the disclaimer should be placed at the end of the ad against a plain background. A voiceover must also accompany the disclaimer in text, and the voiceover should be at a normal speaking pace and must not be hurried.

According to the guidelines, the words “currency,” “securities,” “custodian,” and “depositories” may not be used in crypto ads as consumers associate these terms with regulated products.

The guidelines also require that crypto “returns for periods of less than 12 months shall not be included” in ads.

“We had several rounds of discussion with the government, finance sector regulators, and industry stakeholders before framing these guidelines,” said Subhash Kamath, chairman of ASCI. “Advertising of virtual digital assets and services needs specific guidance, considering that this is a new and as yet an emerging way of investing. Hence, there is a need to make consumers aware of the risks and ask them to proceed with caution.”

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The guidelines come two months after India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a crypto meeting that reportedly reached a consensus to “stop attempts to mislead the youth through over-promising and non-transparent advertising.”

But the ASCI guidelines do not mean crypto is now legal in India. The country is yet to announce its regulatory stance. A crypto bill is in the making, which should clarify the country’s position on the emerging sector.

In recent months, however, India has taken steps that point toward cautious optimism about crypto rather than an outright ban as previously feared. Earlier this month, the government of India levied a 30% tax on any income generated from crypto transactions. India’s political leaders have also shared commentary suggesting that they are warming up to crypto.

 


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