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Italy – Consob and Bank of Italy on Crypto-Assets Related Risks

On April 28th, 2021, the Italian Regulator ("Consob") and the Bank of Italy issued a joint press release calling the attention of the community, and in particular of small savers, to the risks associated with crypto-assets. In recent times, also the three European supervisory authorities i.e. Eba, Esma and Eiopa) have pointed out the highly risky and speculative nature of such instruments, warning consumers against risks inherent in crypto-assets transactions.

In that respect, the main issue highlighted by ESMA is the lack of a statutory framework regulating crypto-assets transactions: consumers buying or holding such instruments do not benefit from the guarantees and safeguards typically associated with regulated financial services, such as transparency and supervisory rules. In fact, EBA – by publishing the results of its assessment on the applicability and suitability of EU law to crypto-assets on January 9th, 2019 – recognized how crypto-assets activities fall outside the scope of EU banking, payments and electronic money regulations. Therefore, EBA drawn the attention to the existence of certain crypto-assets-related risks for consumers that are not addressed at EU level and encouraged the European Commission to perform a cost-benefit analysis to determine if and to what extent an intervention of the EU is required.

In line with the European Supervisory Authorities, also the Italian Regulator and the Bank of Italy noted that – notwithstanding the interest of the market in crypto-assets in growing steadily – due to the absence of a reference regulatory framework, operations in crypto-assets may engender investors' and consumers' protection. These risks include, for instance: the lack of information on methods for the determination of the prices, the volatility of the prices, the complexity of the underlying technologies, the absence of disclosure obligations, as well as of specific forms of supervision on the operators. The risk of losses due to malfunctions, hacking attacks or loss of ID access to electronic wallets is also pointed out. In addition, as the offer of crypto-assets carried out through digital channels is spreading, the risks referred to above take on greater significance, being the purchase of crypto-assets accessible to a wide range of subjects.

Anyway, the press release at hand recalls that at EU level the process for the approval of a regulatory proposal aimed at regulating the issuance, the offer to the public and the market-abuse related issues with respect to crypto-assets, is still underway. This proposal fosters the creation of a reliable statutory framework addressing crypto-assets related issues, aiming at ensuring the integrity of the market and adequate levels of protection for consumers and savers.

In the light of the above, the Italian Supervisory Authorities concluded that crypto-assets transactions, as well as investments on crypto-assets related financial products, are highly risky investments, being crypto-assets characterized by extreme price volatility and mostly unregulated.

DISCLAIMER: the content of this news is for informational purposes only and neither represents, nor can be construed as a legal opinion