New MAS guidelines crack down on crypto firms promoting ‘highly risky’ assets to the public

Cryptocurrency marketing Singapore
Hollywood actor Matt Damon stars as the face of

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) is cracking down on crypto companies with new guidelines to curb widespread marketing of cryptocurrencies to retail investors.

The guidelines, which discourage cryptocurrency trading by the general public, prevent companies from advertising crypto services in public areas in Singapore. The MAS said it has consistently warned that trading cryptocurrencies is “highly risky” because such digital payment tokens (DPTs) are prone to sharp speculative swings

“Some DPT service providers have been actively promoting their services through online and physical advertisements or through the provision of physical automated teller machines (ATMs) in public areas,” the MAS said in a January statement. “This could encourage consumers to trade DPTs on impulse, without fully understanding the attendant risks.”

Service providers will no longer be able to carry crypto advertisements on public transport, public websites, social media platforms, broadcast and print media, or provide ATMs to dispense tokens. Crypto ATMs have already been disappearing from Singapore malls over the past week.

Companies are also discouraged from using third parties, such as social media influencers, to promote cryptocurrency services to the public. The MAS said DPT service providers should only market or advertise on their own corporate websites, mobile apps or official social media accounts.

Despite the move to deter ordinary investors from dabbling in crypto, Singapore appears to remain a crypto-friendly economy that champions fintech innovation.

MAS assistant managing director (policy, payments and financial crime) Loo Siew Yee said the MAS “strongly encourages the development of blockchain technology and the innovative application of crypto tokens in value-adding use cases”.

“But the trading of cryptocurrencies is highly risky and not suitable for the general public,” she said. “DPT service providers should therefore not portray the trading of DPTs in a manner that trivialises the high risks of trading in DPTs, nor engage in marketing activities that target the general public.”

Under Singapore’s Payment Services Act, cryptocurrency companies are regulated primarily for money laundering and terrorism financing risks. Customers of those regulated entities must be informed of crypto risks, but are not covered by any statutory protection when trading DPTs.

Advertisements for cryptocurrency trading have recently gained greater prominence on public screens in Singapore, most notably a ‘Fortune Favours the Brave’ ad for which features Hollywood star Matt Damon.

Service providers subject to the latest guidelines include payment firms, banks and other financial institutions, as well as applicants under the Payment Services Act who are buying, selling, or facilitating the exchange of digital payment tokens.

Singapore is also expanding its definition of DPT services under the Act to include the transfer of digital payment tokens, provision of custodian wallet services for DPTs, and facilitating the exchange of DPTs without possession of moneys or tokens by the provider.

Singapore leads many other countries in regulatory moves towards cryptocurrency trading, but so far has only issued four licences to provide DPT services and granted in-principle approval to a fifth.