Binance, the world’s biggest cryptocurrency exchange, has been issued a warning by the UK’s financial regulator.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has ruled that the firm cannot conduct any “regulated activity” in the UK.
It also advised people to be wary of adverts promising high returns on cryptoasset investments.
Binance said the FCA notice would have no “direct impact” on the services it provides from its website Binance.com.
Binance’s existing crypto exchange is not UK-based so despite the FCA ruling, there will be no impact on UK residents who use the website to purchase and sell cryptocurrencies.
The FCA does not regulate cryptocurrencies, but requires exchanges to register with them. Binance has not registered with the FCA and therefore is not allowed to operate an exchange in the UK.
The FCA move comes amid pushback from regulators around the world against cryptocurrency platforms.
Binance.com is an online centralised exchange that offers users a range of financial products and services, including purchasing and trading a wide range of digital currencies, as well as digital wallets, futures, securities, savings accounts and even lending.
Binance Group is currently based in the Cayman Islands, while Binance Markets Limited is an affiliate firm based in London. The firm has multiple entities dotted around the world and Binance Group was previously based in Malta.
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The FCA said that Binance Markets Limited (BML), which is owned by Binance Group, is not currently permitted to undertake any regulated activities without the prior written consent of the FCA. It has until Wednesday to comply with the ruling.
The regulator also stressed that no entity in the Binance Group holds any form of authorisation, registration or licence to conduct regulated activity in the UK.
At first sight, the Financial Conduct Authority’s move to bar Binance from operating in the UK will have little impact. After all, it won’t stop the company’s many UK customers from using its exchange based in the Cayman Islands to buy and sell Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
Nevertheless, the FCA is sending a strong signal that it is worried about the dangers of investing in cyptocurrencies in general.
The reason it wants them all to register is because it’s concerned about their potential use as a cover for illicit activity – and it wants consumers to be very careful indeed.
As well as forbidding Binance from setting up an exchange in the UK, the regulator is ordering its UK division to stop any form of advertising here by 30 June. More significantly, it has until the end of this week to show the FCA that it has stored records of all of its UK customers, ready to be handed over if necessary.
And there’s a message to UK consumers to check whether any crypto company is registered with the regulator and, if it isn’t, to consider withdrawing their assets.
The FCA cannot stop people from trading in cryptocurrencies – but it has got out its biggest red flag and is waving it vigorously.