UK’s Advertising Authority Raps BitMEX Over Bitcoin Ad

On Bitcoin’s tenth anniversary, BitMEX published a front-page advertisement celebrating the cryptocurrency. Now the UK Advertising Standards Authority is taking the Hong Kong-based exchange to task over it. The authority charged BitMEX with misleading advertising and exaggeration related to financial products. It has ruled that the ad must not appear again in its current form.

The advertisement in the case was published on the front page of The Times and featured a rising graph displaying the price of a single Bitcoin over a ten-year period. “Ten years ago today, the first block of Bitcoin blockchain referenced the front page of The Times. Turns out that was a pretty big deal,” the ad stated.

Bitcoin’s Exaggerated Returns and Risks

The authority said it received a total of six complaints relating to the ad. Four of those complaints charged the ad with display of exaggerated returns and two stated that the ad did not provide adequate illustration of the risks involved in a Bitcoin investment.

In the first case, the reference was to the ad’s logarithmic scale graph, which displays increases over an uneven period of time, that smoothed the schizophrenic fluctuations in Bitcoin’s price during that period. (A linear graph divides time-periods equally). The second set of complaints referred to the scams and volatility that have characterized cryptocurrency markets.  

BitMEX provided clarification and pointed to instances in the accompanying article where Arthur Hayes, BitMEX CEO, wrote that Bitcoin is “still very much an experiment” and mentioned “price volatility” as a risk.

But the authority did not buy the company’s explanation. “Readers were likely to be misled about Bitcoin’s value and stability in recent years (using the logarithmic graph) and therefore about what any investments they might previously have made would have yielded,” it stated and added that ad “did very little to warn consumers of any risks.”