Beware of the risks of unlicensed and overseas virtual asset trading platforms
Virtual assets are high risk products, but have also gained much attention in recent years, with many interested in investing in them. One of the most common ways to invest in these emerging assets is to conduct transactions through virtual asset trading platforms.
Starting from 1st June 2023, all centralised virtual asset trading platforms carrying on their business in Hong Kong or actively marketing their services to Hong Kong investors need to be licensed and regulated by the SFC. Investors can refer to the SFC’s "List of licensed virtual asset trading platforms" which sets out the names of virtual asset trading platform operators which are formally licensed by the SFC, and click on the relevant link for further information on the platform operator. Nevertheless, most virtual asset trading platforms currently accessible by the public are not regulated by the SFC. Investors should beware of the risks of unlicensed and overseas virtual asset trading platforms.
Unprotected when trading on unregulated platforms
There are potential high risks associated with unregulated virtual asset trading platforms which may lack transparency and well-established operations. Investors may not be protected at all. For example, many platforms may have disclaimers to discharge responsibility even if they lose investors’ virtual assets. If disputes arise between investors and the platforms, there may not be any channels to handle complaints and the SFC may not be able to offer any help. Should these platforms wind up or cease operations, or if there are incidences of fraud, breaches or theft, investors may suffer a complete loss of virtual assets held in these platforms.
Risks of overseas platforms
Some platforms may be licensed or registered with overseas regulators. But it is important to know that some jurisdictions only adopt a light touch approach to regulating these platforms such that they are not subject to any investor protection measures. Also, due to the cross-border nature, making complaints or seeking assistance overseas may be difficult when disputes arise. If the trading platforms close or cease operations, investors may be fighting an uphill battle in submitting claims and seeking legal remedies. If these trading platforms have no connection with Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Police and regulators may not be able to help.
Last update: 15 June 2023