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Owning cryptocurrencies in Australia guarantees consumer protection, regulator says.

An Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) survey of 1,053 retail investors last November found 44% said they held cryptocurrency, making it the second most popular investment after Australian shares.

A quarter of surveyed investors who held cryptocurrencies said it was their only investment.

The data will increase pressure on Australia’s new Labor government to focus on consumer protection as it continues a multi-year study, begun under the previous Conservative government, into whether and how to regulate digital assets.

It also legitimizes widely publicized statistics about Australia’s high cryptocurrency ownership rates, dismissed as “unbelievable” by a senior central bank official last year.

The survey also found that 41% of respondents consulted social media for investment information, with 20% citing Alphabet Inc.’s YouTube and 11% citing Facebook Meta Platforms.

According to the survey, only 13% received information from a financial advisor or broker.

“We are concerned about the number of respondents who said they had invested in unregulated and volatile crypto-assets,” ASIC chairman Joe Longo said in a statement.

“There are limited protections for investing in crypto-assets as they have become more mainstream and are heavily advertised and promoted. regulation of crypto-assets to better protect investors.”

Since the survey, rising interest rates have prompted investors to pull away from speculative assets, driving down cryptocurrency prices and driving some crypto-related businesses out of business.

The survey was conducted in the same month that Bitcoin and Ether, the two most popular cryptocurrencies, peaked. Both have since fallen by about two-thirds, while the Australian share market has fallen by about 6%.

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