Australian Court Gives Win To Watchdog
4 mins read

Australian Court Gives Win To Watchdog

Recent reports revealed that the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) was granted its first victory on a non-cash payment case involving cryptocurrencies. Per the documents, an Australian court ruled partially in favor of the watchdog’s lawsuit against BPS Financial Pty Ltd (BPS).

“Qoin Scheme” Earns $26 Million In Sales

In 2022, ASIC initiated civil penalty procedures against BPS for alleged “misleading, false or deceptive” advertising and engaging in unlicensed operations with a non-cash payment facility involving a crypto asset token.

The Australian regulator claimed that the Qoin Facility was a “non-cash payment facility” established by the company in 2020. The “Qoin scheme” included the Qoin tokens, the Qoin Wallet, and a distributed digital ledger implemented by blockchain technology.

Moreover, ASIC alleged that BPS promoted the tokens to retail consumers and business owners as a payment method for “goods and services offered by Qoin Merchants.”

Nonetheless, the tokens could only be traded on the BTX Exchange, operated by Block Trade Exchange Pty Ltd (BTX), a company under BPS. The crypto exchange seemingly only allowed trading Qoin tokens for Australian dollars, and over time, it allegedly imposed restrictions that limited the ability to exchange the token.

According to the press release, the Qoin Wallet had over 93,000 users by September 2022. Additionally, it received over AU$40 million, around $26.5 million, from Qoin token sales.

Court Rules In Favor Of Watchdog

On May 3, 2024, the Australian Federal Court found that BPS was guilty of most of the charges leveled by ASIC. Judge J Downes ruled that the company “engaged in unlicensed conduct when offering the ‘Qoin Wallet,’ a non-cash payment facility which used a crypto-asset token.”

Judge Downes considered that BPS broke the Corporations Act for at least 10 months in 2020 as it did not hold an Australian Financial Services License. As a result, the company was not authorized to “issue or provide advice about the Qoin Wallet.”

Moreover, the judge found that the company engaged in misleading marketing and representation of the product. The reasons for this ruling include BPS’s false claims that the Qoin Wallet was officially registered and that said wallet could be used to purchase goods and services from an “increasing number of Qoin Merchants” when it was declining.

Qoin Merchant's decresing numbers over the years. Source: ASIC

Additionally, the Court found that the only crypto exchange that accepted Qoin before November 2021 was the BTX exchange. This contradicted the claims that Qoin tokens could be traded for other crypto assets or AUD from different exchanges.

Clearer Regulatory Framework For Crypto?

ASIC Chair Joe Longo deems this “a significant ruling as the first court outcome against a non-cash payment facility involving crypto.”  However, the Court did not agree with all of ASIC’s arguments against BPS.

According to the official document, Judge Downes disagreed with the regulator’s claim that the Qoin Wallet and the Qoin Blockchain were one single scheme as part of the Qoin Facility:

Contrary to ASIC’s submissions, the Qoin Blockchain, a means of acquiring Qoin and a means whereby business operators who hold Qoin Wallets can register as Qoin Merchants are not components of, and are not themselves, the mechanism which allows the user to make the non-cash payment.

The Court’s rejection becomes a crucial ruling against the regulator’s attempt to classify blockchain technology as a financial product under Australian law. According to ASIC’s Chair, the agency has taken several enforcement actions against crypto asset businesses “with the intention of clarifying what is a regulated product and when the provider needs a license.”

Lastly, Longo added that the enforcements are meant as a message to the crypto community:

These proceedings should send a message to the crypto industry that their products will continue to be scrutinized by ASIC to ensure consumers are protected and that they comply with regulatory obligations.

crypto, TOTAL

Total crypto market capitalization is at $2.3 trillion in the weekly chart. Source: TOTAL on TradingView

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